NFC Controller Interface (NCI) Specification Interface Supports Devices from Mobile Phones to PCs
The NFC Forum, a non-profit industry association that advances the use of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, has published the NFC Controller Interface (NCI) specification, which is available to the public for download at no charge. NCI is a major new specification, created from the ground up, that defines a standard interface within an NFC device between an NFC controller and the device’s main application processor.
“With the publication of the NCI specification, device manufacturers will be able to integrate NFC controllers into their products quickly and simply”
The availability of the NCI specification is significant because it makes it easier for device manufacturers to integrate chipsets from different chip manufacturers, and it defines a common level of functionality and interoperability among the components within an NFC-enabled device. Before the development of the NCI specification, device manufacturers had to create their own device-specific interface controllers to manage interactions between the device’s CPU and the NFC chip. With the availability of the NCI, manufacturers will have access to a standard interface they can use for whatever kind of NFC-enabled device they build – including mobile phones, PCs, tablets, printers, consumer electronics, and appliances. This will enable manufacturers to bring new NFC-enabled devices to market faster.
“With the publication of the NCI specification, device manufacturers will be able to integrate NFC controllers into their products quickly and simply,” said Koichi Tagawa, NFC Forum Chairman. “This will ease chip sourcing and shorten time to market for new NFC-enabled devices of all kinds. I would like to recognize all of the NFC Forum Technical Committee members for their concerted effort to deliver this important specification.”
The NCI specification allows the control and management of the RF communication functionality offered by a device’s NFC controller. This NFC controller functionality is implemented according to the corresponding NFC Forum specifications. The NCI makes it easier to use NFC controllers from different sources, and it also makes it easier to use NFC controllers with different application processors and different NFC software stacks.
The NCI provides users a logical interface that can be used with different physical transports, such as UART, SPI, and I2C. It also offers a number of partitions that allow an implementer to include different sets of functionality in an NFC Controller. In Listen mode, the NCI supports routing traffic to different secure elements in the device, including those connected using different interfaces — for example, ETSI-HCI or ISO/IEC 7816.
Previously a candidate specification, the NCI specification is the latest of the Forum’s 21 published technical documents, which include Certification and Application Documents as well as Technical Specifications. NCI was adopted after a validation period and subsequent votes by the NFC Forum membership and Board.
The NFC Forum was launched as a non-profit industry association in 2004 by leading mobile communications, semiconductor, and consumer electronics companies. The Forum’s mission is to advance the use of Near Field Communication technology by developing specifications, ensuring interoperability among devices and services, and educating the market about NFC technology.