Near Field Communication Technology Standards

When developing near field communication devices and new technology, NFC standards must be met. Standards exist to ensure all forms of near field communication technology can interact with other NFC compatible devices and will work with newer devices in the future. Two major specifications exist for NFC technology: ISO/IEC 14443 and ISO/IEC 18000-3. The first defines the ID cards used to store information, such as that found in NFC tags. The latter specifies the RFID communication used by NFC devices.

ISO/IEC 18000-3 is an international standard for all devices communicating wirelessly at the 13.56MHz frequency using Type A or Type B cards, as near field communication does. The devices must be within 4cm of each other before they can transmit information. The standards explain how a device and the NFC tag it is reading should communicate with one another. The device is known as the interrogating device while the NFC tag is simply referred to as the tag.

To function, the interrogator sends out a signal to the tag. If the devices are close enough to each other, the tag becomes powered by the interrogator’s signal. This signal powers the tag, allowing the tag to be small in size and function without any battery or power source of its own.

The two devices create a high frequency magnetic field between the loosely coupled coils in both the interrogating device and the NFC tag. Once this field is established, a connection is formed and information can be passed between the interrogator and the tag. The interrogator sends the first message to the tag to find out what type of communication the tag uses, such as Type A or Type B. When the tag responds, the interrogator sends its first commands in the appropriate specification.

The tag receives the instruction and checks if it is valid. If not, nothing occurs. If it is a valid request, the tag then responds with the requested information. For sensitive transactions such as credit card payments, a secure communication channel is first established and all information sent is encrypted.

NFC tags function at half duplex while the interrogator functions at full duplex. Half duplex refers to a device that can only send or receive, but not both at once. Full duplex can do both simultaneously. A NFC tag can only receive or send a signal, while the interrogating device can receive a signal at the same time it sends a command. Commands are transmitted from the interrogator using PJM (phase jitter modulation) to modify the surrounding field and send out a signal. The tag answers using inductive coupling by sending a charge through the coils in it. Meeting theses specifications ensures all NFC devices and tags can communicate effectively with one another.

ISO/IEC 18000-3 Standards
NFC Forum Specifications