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Interview: NFC co-inventor NXP Semiconductors talks NFC and Nexus 7

June 28, 2012

The new Google Nexus 7 tablet, running the freshly-announced Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, will be, without doubt, one of the highlights of this summer in the technology world. The 7-inch device costs just $199 in its basic configuration and proves that great technology does not have to cost you an arm and a leg.

With the Nexus 7, Google makes a stand against both the iPad, the still undisputed champion of the tablet market, and the Amazon Kindle Fire, the cheap 7-inch device running a forked version of Android that many analysts consider the primary threat to Google’s blossoming Android ecosystem.

To compete with the two stalwarts of the tablet world, Google needed to pack into the Nexus 7 the best specs, all while keeping costs in check. One such spec is NFC support, which enables innovative features like Android Beam, instant Bluetooth pairing, or mobile payments. Like many recent high-end devices, the Nexus 7 incorporates a NFC chip manufactured by NXP Semiconductors.

Based in the Netherlands, but having a network of R&D centers in 19 locations around the world, NXP Semiconductors (a former division of Dutch electronics giant Philips) was one of the original creators of the NFC standard and currently owns over 11,000 patents. We’ve sat with Jeff Miles, Vice President of Mobile Transactions at NXP, to discuss how NFC is put to use in the new Nexus 7 and about the promising future of NFC mobile applications. Here’s the quick interview.


What was it like to work with the Google Nexus Team?

NXP enjoyed working with the Google Nexus Team on the Nexus 7. Just like the Nexus-branded smartphones and now, with this tablet, the team continues to bring innovative mobile technology to its users using NFC technology from NXP.

Do you forsee NFC being a fundamental element of tablet computing granted tablets larger form factor?

The availability of mobile NFC devices has seen tremendous growth worldwide. Whether it be a smart phone or a Nexus 7 tablet, NFC technology continues to land in more and more consumer’s hands, enabling richer experiences throughout their day. NXP continues to be the leader in driving the NFC ecosystem and NFC adoption.

In what ways do you see NFC being used on the Nexus 7?

NXP’s NFC solution, the PN65, fully supports NFC functionality enabling use cases and applications such as Android Beam and Bluetooth pairing. In addition, users are able to share web pages, videos, and directions just by tapping two NFC-enabled devices together.

What does the future hold with regards to NFC technology? Any revisions to the hardware side of things?

NXP continues to grow the NFC ecosystem and NFC adoption. NXP now brings NFC to other mobile devices like the Nexus 7, enabling OEMs to bring NFC user experiences and convenience to end consumers beyond just smart phones. For NFC developers, the NFC enabled tablet allows developers to experiment with new use cases and continue to leverage existing ecosystem.  We expect to continue to deliver enhanced performance and security that will enrich the user experience.

How many devices will have NFC on board by the end of 2012? 2013? And beyond?

We cannot comment on how many mobile devices will feature NXP’s NFC technology by the close of 2012 and beyond, however NXP continues to grow the NFC ecosystem and NFC adoption.
After smart phones, NXP now brings NFC to other mobile devices based on Android OS, thus expanding NXP’s NFC market opportunity and enabling OEMs to bringing NFC user experiences and convenience to end consumers. Currently you can find NXP’s NFC solution featured on two Google Nexus phones including the Google Nexus S.  You will also see an increase in the number of devices like POS terminals, Laptops and other devices that will act as readers to interact with NFC phones and tablets.

In what ways did NXP and the Google Nexus team work to make the software side of using NFC technology an intuitive, seamless experience?

The next iteration of the Android operating system (Jelly Bean) includes NXP’s NFC open source software stack, making it easier for OEMs and application developers to bring NFC devices and services to market. This means those in the mobile ecosystem from equipment manufacturers to Android app developers will be able to capitalize on user demand for contactless services on devices in a more efficient and timely manner.

NFC is certainly here to stay, and companies like NXP work hard to ensure that the technology delivers on its promise. We can certainly imagine a future where NFC-equipped devices replace items we now consider indispensable, like our wallets or car keys. How do you see NFC being used on the Nexus 7? Let us know if the comments section below!