IoT applications for the home have been available for a few years now, and promise to improve life in lots of ways, but, so far, smart-home solutions can be hard to deploy. Often the technology interfaces are too complicated, and things don’t work together quite as seamlessly as expected, which is a challenge for OEMs, system integrators and end customers alike. NFC helps to ease is the IoT in various ways.
NFC lets you pair devices that use different communications technologies, so you can initiate a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi transaction with just a tap. Join a Wi-Fi network without having to enter settings or complex passcodes, or add a new light fixture to your network without keying in a product ID or serial number.
- NFC Commissioning
In most cases, your smartphone becomes the user interface for the smart-home network, making it possible to interact with IoT devices. Tap your phone to your water meter, to monitor usage or view your account. You can even use your phone or tablet to program appliances that aren’t connected to Wi-Fi, like your microwave, for a new level of programmability.
NFC gives you greater control over settings and access privileges, so there’s a higher degree of flexibility with a higher degree of security. You can program your preferred settings for lighting, temperature, and entertainment, so your living room is just the way you like it.
A lot about the benefits of NFC to connect and commission a network of IoT devices has been said (see NFC Forum Whitepaper). I see our customers being increasingly aware of the “NFC convenience factor”. However, there is another aspect about NFC for the IoT that often takes my audience by surprise: NFC as cost saver.
How NFC allows for faster installs, easier troubleshooting, lower Opex
Another way that NFC can make an IoT gateway better is with customer service, because I don’t need it as much. That is, since NFC makes it easier to install and operate my device, I have fewer reasons to call customer service or request a service technician.
Automatic pairing and commissioning makes setup a snap, so I can upgrade my smart home network with a new smart light bulb or add Bluetooth speakers in minutes, without needing an expert to guide me through the process. If anything unexpected happens, I can tap my phone to the gateway to initiate self-diagnostic tests and I can use the cloud to fix problems instead of calling a hotline or scheduling a service call.
Simplifying installation and debug can lower the service provider’s operating expenses and, in turn, can make the system more affordable for consumers. When you consider how expensive it is to operate a consumer hotline, or employ technicians who make house calls, using NFC to simplify interactions and prevent calls in the first place makes good sense.
Also, if I decide I don’t like my device or it has serious problems and I want a different one, having NFC onboard makes it easier to return the system to the dealer, since a quick tap with a phone lets the dealer view important details, like serial number and warranty information. NFC also simplifies life for technicians, since it’s easier to access diagnostics and other information, for repairs or refurbishment work on returned systems.
Let’s talk numbers: How NFC can save up to 7.50 Euros per gateway lifetime
By experience, the trouble starts already with the gateway configuration, which concerns more than 30 percent of gateways. NFC could avoid half of the service calls. For the smart home gateways which are the most complex to configure and require longer assistance calls, savings with NFC can reach up to 3.75 Euros per gateway (10 € per call, affecting 50 % of gateways of which 75% percent of service calls could be omitted).
Throughout a full gateway lifetime 50 % of those devices face technical issues. Adding NFC to the system allows for self-debugging, reducing the amount of service calls and technician appointments by approximately 25% and 5%, respectively. In consequence, the ability to empower the customer to debug his device saves 2.25 Euros on top (if a hotline call costs 10 Euros, a single technician appointment 80 Euros).
For half of the gateways in the market refurbishment becomes an issue sooner or later. NFC can save you another 1.50 Euros assuming that a diagnosis by a technician costs 1€/min and NFC reduces at least 3 min of the technician’s time thanks to its simplicity of tap to read out the error protocol.
Looking at this scenario, with NFC the OPEX savings per gateway lifetime can be between 4.50 Euros for residential gateways to 7.50 Euros for smart home gateway with IoT nodes*.
Creating Better Smart Home Experiences
A growing number of IoT gateway designers are using NFC to create new levels of interaction and personalization, and they’re making use of NFC’s other features, too, so their devices are easier to pair, commission, and configure – all with the highest levels of privacy and security.
NXP’s PN7150 NFC Controller is optimized for fast design-in as it comes with embedded NFC firmware. It lets developers add simplicity, security, and interaction to smart home applications that run in Android, Windows, Linux, or any other OS environment. NTAG I²C plus is the ideal counterpart on the node side. The connected NFC Tag fits in almost every form factor, from light bulb to a smart plug.
*All numbers are based on NXP’s insights to the market and data provided by our customers.