Losing Your Car Keys Won’t Matter With Your NFC-Enabled Mobile Phone

Losing Your Car Keys Won’t Matter With Your NFC-Enabled Mobile Phone

The other week I was working at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona and, not surprisingly, I found myself surrounded by thousands of examples of the latest wireless technology.

Long-Term Evolution (LTE) unquestionably was the dominant topic at the show, and many of the presentations focused on the way the wireless industry is moving toward LTE-Advanced. This is the natural evolution of LTE, and it’s initially being specified as part of Release 10 of the 3GPP specification.

Several new technologies are being introduced into LTE-Advanced to enable peak data rates of up to 1 Gbit/s in the downlink and 500 Mbits/s in the uplink. To achieve such a high peak data rate, LTE-Advanced supports a maximum bandwidth of 100 MHz via aggregating up to five component carriers, each up to 20 MHz wide.

However, one exhibit stood out among all the mobile communication products—a near-field communication (NFC) project created by a joint venture between NXP Semiconductors and automotive supplier Continental. The idea behind the project is to demonstrate new ways in which people can interact with their car.

NFC, which is being increasingly adopted by mobile phone manufacturers, is a short-range wireless technology that allows the secure exchange of data. The ways in which it can allow drivers to communicate with their cars are numerous.

Using NFC, consumers can open their cars by presenting their NFC-enabled phone to the door, triggering an authentication cycle between the phone’s secure element and the car. The car will give drivers a personal welcome message and set their comfort preferences, and once the phone is placed in a dock on the dashboard, it becomes part of the on-board entertainment and communication system. The secure mobile device can also disarm the engine immobilizer and allow the engine to start.

The NFC phone can receive diagnostic data such as fuel consumption, mileage, and service data to be viewed away from the car later. Using GPS, the location coordinates of the car can also be sent to the phone via NFC, enabling consumers to easily locate their vehicles in a new city or large parking lot. It’s all very impressive, although representatives of the joint venture were unsure whether the NFC system would also shout at the car if it ever failed to start!

NXP and Continental have a long history in cooperating on the development of keyless entry systems. NFC is a market-proven technology co-invented by NXP in 2002. It evolved from a combination of contactless identification (RFID) and interconnection technologies.

Fundamentally, NFC is a short-range communication system that is integrated into mobile phones. It can be used for the setup of wireless technologies, such as Bluetooth, although NFC sets up faster than standard Bluetooth. However, it is not much faster than Bluetooth low energy.

With NFC, instead of performing manual configurations to identify devices, the connection between two NFC devices is automatically established. The maximum data-transfer rate of NFC is 424 kbits/s, which is actually slower than Bluetooth V2.1 (2.1 Mbits/s). And with a maximum working distance of less than 20 cm, NFC has a short range that in some cases does add to the inherent security of the system.

TAGS: Automotive NXP
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