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RapidNFC Blog

28 March 2014

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is compatible with all Ultralight, NTAG203 and NTAG213 NFC chips. These NFC chips are found in the majority of NFC tags and products including Printed NFC Stickers, NFC Hang Tags and NFC Starter Packs.

What can I do with NFC tags ?

NFC tags allow you to instantly update your phones settings or launch a web address by simply tapping your mobile phone. The Trigger App is free to download from Google Play and is currently the most popular NFC app but there are also a wide range of free and low cost alternatives. Specific to Samsung the TecTile app offers similar features to Trigger and Samsung offers the TecTile NFC tags as an option to use with it.

Samsung Galaxy S5
Samsung TecTile and Samsung TecTile 2

The original Samsung TecTile used a 1K Mifare NFC chip that is not compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S5 but is compatible with previous smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S2 and S3. Samsung have therefore created an updated TecTile using a universally compatible NFC chip, the Samsung TecTile 2. In short, makes sure you buy the TecTile 2 !

Can I use NFC tags other than the TecTile with Samsung smartphones ?

Yes. The Samsung TecTile is designed for use specifically with the TecTile app however there are a large range of alternative NFC tags and NFC apps. For more information see our recommended NFC Apps or popular NFC Starter Packs.

21 March 2014

We've been asked a lot recently about the new NTAG216 chip from NXP and when we will stock it. It's an important product because it replaces the 1k in terms of memory capacity and Topaz in terms of all round mobile phone compatibility.

It's a perfect tag for vCard storage and the password protection features available on the new NTAG21x series chips means that it can also be used to store some larger data sets if required.

We will be stocking the NTAG216 in three sticker variants by the end of March and a PVC card variant during April. From there, we will see what customers prefer and decide whether to add additional products.

The stickers will be a 29mm white face, 29mm clear sticker and a 38mm clear sticker. Pre-orders can be taken from 24th March for an early April delivery.

NTAG216 NFC Tag
How about the NTAG215 ?

At the moment we have no plans to stock the NTAG215 (which has 504 bytes of memory against the 888 of the NTAG216).

What other NTAG21x series chips will RapidNFC stock ?

We think that the market is essentially about the higher memory capacity NTAG216 and the flexible and more cost effective NTAG213. We have some NTAG210 which is a cheaper option for those who don't require the memory of the NTAG213 but in the long term, we think it'll be about the 216 and 213. The other options, such as the NTAG210, 212 and 215 aren't likely to feature much and we have no current plans to increase any sticker or product stock with these chips.

And the new Ultralight EV1 ?

And this is where it gets really confusing. The EV1 is an advanced version of the Ultralight with the same memory but additional features similar the NTAG210. At the moment, the additional features are not in demand and we have no current plans to offer this chip as a sticker. It's likely we will start to offer this in card and wristband format as a replacement to the existing ultralight options but it will depend on volume pricing and demand.

25 February 2014
Arguably the most anticipated Android release of 2014, the Samsung Galaxy S5 was unveiled yesterday at the Mobile World Congress. The Samsung Galaxy S5 which again includes NFC is certainly not a game changer but new features such as fingerprint verification, water and dustproof casing and Ultra Power Saving mode make it a welcome upgrade.
Samsung Galaxy S5
Fingerprint Verification

As the battle continues for dominance of the mobile payment market the inclusion of fingerprint verification as seen in the iPhone 5s means this technology will likely become mainstream. Importantly although Apple have locked this functionality into their ecosystem, Samsung’s decision to initially pair with PayPal will mean consumers can using fingerprint verification for payment at a wide range of online retailers. This has far more scope and no doubt PayPal will be eying this up as an opportunity to start managing more payments in store via their Beacon technology.

More interesting will be whether Samsung opens up its fingerprint verification technology for use by other developers, notably Visa and Mastercard whose primary focus is on NFC. Following the inclusion of Host Card Emulation (HCE) in Android KitKat 4.4 NFC payments are no longer restricted by carrier support which opens up opportunity for more competition and innovation.

The Future of Mobile Payments

Mobile World Congress had a big emphasis on security this year which shows that the mobile industry is increasingly fixing its sites on offering a mainstream solution for mobile payments. It is becoming clear that although consumers will still have just one or two bank accounts for everyday purchases how they pay will be extremely diverse. Paying in your local supermarket via NFC, paying at Starbucks using Bluetooth (Beacon), paying online using your credit card details; what the technology is doesn’t matter as long as it’s quick and simple to use.

No payment solution is perfect for every situation, each having their own benefits and draw backs and therefore the task facing the mobile industry is to get the right payment solution in front of consumers at the right time, increasing the ease and simplicity of payments and ultimately drive sales.

13 January 2014

It is often assumed that NFC and iBeacon are competing technologies and that in time one will cancel out the other. In reality whilst they both connect the physical and digital worlds they have fundamental differences in how they work and the type of interaction offered.

Technology

NFC and iBeacon use different technologies for communication, NFC using near field communication as found in a contactless bank and transit cards (such as the London Oyster Card) whilst iBeacon uses BLE (Bluetooth low energy) which is commonly found in wireless headphones or used for transferring files between phones. Importantly the technologies have very different wireless ranges, NFC being typically 1-5cm and BLE being up to 50m.

The wireless range is very important as it dictates how the technology can be used. For example if you wished to validate individual concert tickets, using iBeacon with a 50m range and a cost of $20+ each would be useless however using NFC which can be highly location specific and costs as little as $0.20 per tag is ideal. Conversely if you wanted to push a notification to download an app to everyone in a department store iBeacon offers a much more practical solution.

iBeacon
NFC
Technology
Bluetooth Low Energy
Near Field Communication
OS Support
Android, Windows Phone & iOs
Android & Windows Phone
Top 10 Mobile Manufacturer Support
10 out of 10
9 out of 10
Scan Distance
Up to 50m
Up to 10cm
Average Cost
Estimated $25-50
Less than $1
Support

BLE and therefore iBeacon is currently supported by all top 10 mobile manufactures which is an extremely attractive feature however like NFC consumers must have the setting turned on in order for it to work. By comparison NFC is currently supported by 9 out of 10 mobile manufacturers with the exception being Apple. Whether or not Apple will include NFC in the future is a subject for a separate blog however the number of NFC phones is increasing rapidly and offers a much slicker interaction than offered by the older QR code technology.

What will happen if Apple does not eventually support NFC?

If Apple does not support NFC in likelihood iBeacon will become a better option for marketing as it is a one size fits all solution. NFC however will still be of value working alongside QR codes in highly location specific marketing solutions such as individual items on a shop shelf. Further to this NFC will hold value where the consumer has the NFC tag, for example a concert ticket, payment or transit card. iBeacon's simply aren't available at a price or in a format where providing each consumer with an iBeacon is practical.

Interaction

By being highly location specific NFC marketing must be intentionally engaged with. For example if a restaurant had an advertising poster to 'tap and receive a discount voucher' the consumer would need to make the choice to engage. By comparison iBeacon is a more aggressive marketing strategy as the message would be pushed to every Bluetooth connected device in range. Both strategies have their place and it will depend on the individual campaign which is most appropriate.

Payments

NFC is already integrated within payment terminals of most major retailers due to the introduction of contactless bank cards from global payment providers such as Visa. NFC payments from a mobile phone are the next logical step and whilst no one solution has established itself the introduction of Android KitKat 4.4 is set to change that. Importantly NFC payments are not just supported by the majority of mobile manufactures but also by the payment industry. Payments is an area Apple have little influence in and therefore their support is far less important.

iBeacon will allow consumers to pay wirelessly in store though the technology is too young to tell if this will happen. To use iBeacon a customer would need to download an app for each retailer and although it could be great for a supermarket where most are regular shoppers in the vast majority of cases the standard retail model of going to a checkout is far simpler and likely to be favoured by consumers. Another thing to consider is will retailers trust consumers to make purchases without visiting a checkout? If you stood by a clothes rail, went on your phone for 30 seconds and walked out how would staff know if your purchase was legitimate or not? Add to this retailers also would lose out on valuable face to face interaction with their customers and the proposition is not such an easy sell.

Conclusion

NFC and iBeacons will likely work alongside each other in the long term with NFC offering the less aggressive marketing option of the two. iBeacon has huge marketing potential and it's compatibility with devices from all major mobile manufacturers means it will likely become the marketing tool of choice. That said both technologies are about a lot more than marketing !

NFC still offers the most secure and practical payment solution. It's close proximity means it offers greater security for both the consumer and retailers and it sits much more neatly into the current retail experience. It is also worth noting that NFC is much more established and has been used globally in contactless payment, transit, security and loyalty systems for years. In these instances the consumer requires an NFC tag in a small unpowered format such as a card or sticker; something iBeacon will not offer in the future.

Despite some marketing cross over these technologies have fundamentally different properties and uses cases and by understanding the differences the right option can be chosen.

27 November 2013

A question we are frequently asked is what is the best way to encode NFC tags ? Typically there are two options, using an NFC enabled mobile phone or a USB NFC reader/writer.

For most the answer is an NFC enabled phone and there are many free or low cost apps available on all NFC supported mobile platforms including Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry. Apps offer the best solution because they are easy to use and importantly handle details such as data formatting behind the scenes.

NFC Phone and Reader
As a knock on effect of freely available NFC encoding apps, USB NFC reader/writers have very limited support and require the user in most cases to programme their own software to make use of it. If you know what you are doing this can offer greater flexibility but for those who don't we would strongly advise to avoid this option.

Why encode NFC tags with an NFC mobile phone ?
  • Free and low cost encoding apps are widely available.
  • Intuitive and easy to use.
  • Some apps offer more advanced features such as locking and URI encoding.
Why encode NFC tags with a USB NFC reader/writer ?
  • Allows total control and flexibility.
  • Unique and sequential encoding is possible.
  • Many USB NFC readers are available with SDKs that support a variety of programming languages.
What encoding applications do you recommend ?
RapidNFC recommends NXP TagWriter and Trigger for Android and NFC Interactor for Windows Phone. From our experience these are the best and best supported apps currently available.
Does RapidNFC sell USB NFC reader/writers ?
No, we strictly supply NFC tag and encoding services. We often recommend the ACS ACR122U reader/writer which can purchased from a number of online retailers however we do not offer support for this product.
Can RapidNFC encode NFC tags ?
Yes, RapidNFC offers an encoding service from simply URLs (web address) and text through to complex encoding of custom data. Click here for more information.
20 November 2013
Trigger is a free NFC enabled app available on Android that allows you to automatically update your phones settings, launch applications or open a webpage with a single tap of your mobile phone.
1. In The Car
Place an NFC tag on your dashboard to turn on GPS and launch a navigation app. Quick tip: When you download NFC Task Launcher you will need to provide the app with 'root access' to enabled/disable GPS on some smartphones.
2. Connect to a Wi-Fi Network
Programme an NFC tag to allow easy access to your Wi-Fi network. Perfect at home or in the office this great feature allows visitors to connect without the need for repeat passwords.
3. Social Media
Keep your friends and followers updated in an instant. Programme an NFC tag to send a Tweet or check in via Facebook or Foursquare each time it is scanned.
4. At Work
Place an NFC tag by your desk to update your phone settings when you get to and leave work. Scan your tag in the morning to turn your phone to silent and connect to Wi-Fi. When leaving work scan another tag to turn your ring volume to loud and launch a music player.
5. Call And Text Your Frequent Contacts
Assign an NFC tag to frequently used contacts and simply tap to dial a call or send a text message. This idea is great for a work diary and saves trawling through your contact list each time your make a call.
6. At Home
Update Wi-Fi settings as you leave or enter your home. Using the 'toggle' feature you can programme an NFC tag to alternate between the 'on' and 'off' settings. Place the NFC tag by your front door to toggle Wi-Fi settings and extend the battery life of your smartphone.
7. Watch Your Favourite Shows and Movies
A quick and simple way to watch videos on your smartphone or tablet. Tap an NFC tag to turn on Wi-Fi and launch your favourite streaming app such as Netflix or LOVEFiLM.
8. Going To Bed
Scan an NFC tag on your bedside table to set an alarm, turn your phone silent and get a great night's sleep !
What NFC tags should I buy ?

RapidNFC offers a range of NFC tags specifically designed for use with Trigger. We recommend these great products !

Task Launcher NFC Pack - Contains a total of 12 multi-coloured 29mm gloss finish NTAG203 stickers and 6 NTAG203 hang tags with the RapidNFC trademark NFC logo. Six Colours - Blue, Red, Green, Black, White and Yellow.

Mini Twelve Pack NTAG203 NFC Stickers - Twelve multi-coloured mini size 29mm gloss finish NTAG203 stickers with the RapidNFC trademark NFC logo. Six colours - black, white, green, red, blue and yellow.

Hang Tag Six Pack NTAG203 - Six NTAG203 hang tags with the RapidNFC trademark NFC logo. Six Colours - Blue, Red, Green, Black, White and Yellow..

What does NTAG203 mean ?
NTAG203 refers to the NFC microchip within each NFC tag. The NTAG203 is a carefully selected NFC chip that offers universal compatibility with all NFC enabled phones and has sufficient memory for the Trigger application.
01 November 2013

Yesterday saw the release of the new Google Nexus 5 and more importantly the release of Android 4.4 KitKat. We say more importantly as while the Nexus 5 looks to be an undoubtedly great phone the new release of Android will in time be available on all Android phones and shows us where the world's largest mobile operating system is heading next !

A key upgrade to Android 4.4 KitKat is that it allows NFC host card emulation (HCE) without the need to access a secure element, or in more simple terms, any app on Android can emulate an NFC smart card and therefore will allow Android phones to be used for payment, loyalty cards, access, transport passes and a whole host of other services.

Android 4.4 KitKat
Why Is This Important ?

Previous versions of Android require applications to access a secure element in the NFC chip when making NFC payments. This meant mobile carriers only supported the payment applications they wanted to leaving many apps such as Google Wallet without support. Android 4.4 KitKat removes that obstacle.

Perhaps more importantly this move further establishes Android's support for NFC as the future of mobile payments. Android now accounts for a staggering 79.3% of the global smartphone market so this backing is very important indeed !

NFC & Mobile Payments
Mobile payments have been in the pipeline for years however in this time no service has ever come to the fore or caught the imagination of consumers. This is less about the ability of tech companies to offer a great mobile wallet and much more to do with the fact that everyone is fighting for their slice of what will be an immensely profitable pie. Case in point is Verizon’s refusal to include support for Google Wallet in the NFC chips of their phones, not because they are incapable of doing so but because they hoped it would boost their own NFC payments consortium Isis. Android 4.4 KitKat will allow all app developers to create NFC payment and NFC payment related applications without the need for carrier support. This is a significant and important change.
How Long Until These NFC Payment Applications Will Be Available ?
Those with Google devices will have instant access to Android 4.4 KitKat and all its features, it will however take longer to arrive from other manufacturers such as Samsung with a typically lag of several months while the new software is wrapped up in each manufacturers own brand and content. This means that it will likely be early 2014 before the updated NFC features and therefore support for non-carrier supported payment applications becomes available.
Conclusion
Have mobile payments arrived? No, but the support has, applications will shortly follow and they will use NFC.
22 October 2013

As a company at the forefront of delivering NFC tags and products we frequently meet with many of the world's largest advertisers and brands. No matter what the meeting is about one question always comes up, 'Just how many NFC smartphones are there ?'. In this blog we will try to answer that question.

There are no set figures for the number of NFC smartphones however there are key indicators that offer an accurate estimation of the number of NFC phones and whether that total is significant by comparison to the overall smartphone market.

The Number of Smartphones that are not iPhone
NFC has now become a ubiquitous feature in smartphones from all major manufacturers with the exception of Apple. The 'Apple debate' is not for this blog however it does serve as an accurate way to estimate the number of NFC phones entering the market. In Q2 2013 the iPhone sold 31.9 million handsets by comparison to 193.4 million from its competitors1. It would be wrong to say every smartphone that is not an iPhone now supports NFC however the majority do and therefore it can be confidently stated that the number of consumers with NFC enabled phones is rising sharply and fast.
Research and Analysis

Research from established sources serves as an important indicator of how many devices are in circulation. These are the two most reliable sources we have found.

1. ABI Research, one of the most established technology market researches in the world, has predicted that 285 million NFC devices will ship in 2013, this up from its prediction of 102 million for 20122. The report also confirms that nine of the top ten OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) have commercially available NFC handsets.

2. Frost & Sullivan, another global researcher has added to the ABI research by predicting 53% of phones will be NFC-enabled by 2015, estimated at 863 million units3.

What Do These Figures Mean ?

These figures clearly show that NFC is becoming an increasingly available technology and that its growth is accelerating. As growth continues it creates opportunity both alongside and separate from mobile payments to offer consumers better interactive and digital experiences through their mobile phone.

The number of NFC enabled smartphones is only one part of the jigsaw as unless NFC is accompanied with consumer awareness and ultimately services that make the technology genuinely useful it is without value. In 2013 this has started to gain real traction.

There have been a number of key indicators including global promotion by leading payment vendors such as Visa but more interestingly by out-of-home advertisers such as CBS Outdoor, Clear Channel and JCDecaux. The growth we have seen has been less associated with payments and more with experiential and digital marketing as the wider scope for NFC is understood and utilised.



26 September 2013
We have teamed up with London based print company, Freestyle Print to create NFC Christmas Cards. This unique product allows businesses and individuals to link a Christmas card to online content, accessed with a single tap of an NFC enabled mobile phone.
Website pricing includes the standard A6 size with full colour custom print and an additional A5 size is available on request. RapidNFC also has two predesigned cards in stock and available for small or single unit orders. Each NFC Christmas Card includes the high quality NXP NTAG203 NFC chip that meets NFC Forum standards to ensure compatibility with all NFC enabled phones.
NFC Christmas Card Ideas

1. Create your own Christmas video... we like JibJab !

2. Share your favourite Christmas tunes by linking to a Spotify or Dropbox playlist.

3. Linking to a company website or promotion.

4. Link to your favourite Christmas website. We like Your Christmas Countdown. Quick tip - make sure the website is mobile friendly.


Buy your NFC Christmas Cards online today !
12 September 2013

We have teamed up with Maplin, the UK’s largest specialist retailer of consumer electronics, to stock and retail RapidNFC NFC Retail Packs. The rollout will take place in over 200 Maplin stores allowing shoppers to purchase NFC tags in high streets across the UK.

The initial rollout includes the Multicolour Mini Stickers Retail Pack that contains 12 NFC sticker tags. Each NFC tag contains the NXP NTAG203 chip ensuring compatibility with all NFC enabled mobile phones and can be programmed using free and low cost apps available on all NFC supported platforms including Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry. By tapping an NFC phone to the tag users can automatically update mobile settings, launch apps or view content online.

We are really proud to be the first company to bring NFC tags to the high street as the NFC industry continues to grow and expand.

RapidNFC NFC Retail Packs are available to retailers worldwide and can be purchased directly from rapidnfc.com. RapidNFC NFC Retail Packs are specially designed with internal protective shielding to prevent tampering in a retail environment and are available with reseller and high volume discount.

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