As published on Appliances Design magazine, according to analyst firm Berg-Insights and others, the market share of near-field communications (NFC)-enabled mobile phones is increasing month by month. In 2011, when NFC phones started growing in popularity, sales averaged about 30 million units. Just 12 months later, that number had more than quadrupled to 135 million units. For 2013, even the most conservative prediction for the number of NFC-enabled phones sold was 285 million. NFC’s future as a mainstream technology looks bright with forecasts between 800 to 900 million mobile phones expected to be sold in 2015.
So will NFC-enabled replace or co-exist with the existing technologies like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi? While each has advantages and drawbacks, there is little doubt all three technologies will remain prominent in mobile phones. As a result, multiple companies (like BRCM, QCM and Marvel) are working on connectivity combination chips including all three technologies.
Besides, for phone accessories as well as personal electronics, home appliance, medical devices and other electronics the question is which technology to select. Until recently, the choices were easier since interaction was very limited. But market forces today dictate manufacturers must include smartphones into the consideration for their products. While this trend began with the fitness and health band, today it also includes medical, personal devices, home appliances, toys and more.
In most of the devices cited above Bluetooth was used, followed by Wi-Fi. But NFC is gaining real traction in large part because NFC options such as the ams’ AS3953 are considerably less costly than Bluetooth or Wi-fi chipset. The communication setup requires only a simple touch of the phone with another device with which it will interact. This simplicity and ease – with no complicated setup routine – creates the user experience consumers desire. Another plus is that besides using only NFC for the data stream, NFC technology can also pair and secure Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections. NFC devices also can send so-called NFC Data Exchange Format (NDEF) messages which allow certain tasks to be performed on a smartphone without an application required, such as starting an application, downloading apps from the store or opening a website.