Adding smarts to your home – with things like a series of lights you can control with your phone, various smoke detectors, or a security system that sends images to your tablet – can help save energy, increase safety, and, let’s admit it, just be really cool.
However, an all-in-one smart home kit may not be such a walk in the park to install. This is especially true when it comes to commissioning, which is the process of exchanging credentials with the network so the device can begin communicating.
Lots of typing
The user-friendliness of commissioning depends on the type of device, your home setup and the wireless protocol being used. You might need to visit the device manufacturer’s website, get an activation ID and type in the device’s unique ID, which are typically both a long string of alphanumeric characters similar to a serial number that needs to be fed into the system to activate the network or the device.
Filling in forms and typing ID numbers accurately can be time-consuming and tedious, even for just one device (remember your first WiFi connection with your tablet?). Not to mention manual addition of devices by push-buttons pressing (WPS-like) that may require a good sense of synchronization. Multiply that by a number of devices – a group of light fixtures for a lighting network, or a series of IP cameras for a security setup – and a cumbersome commissioning process can really make you busy for a long while.
Just a tap
On the other hand, if the smart device is equipped with Near Field Communication (NFC), commissioning can be as simple as a single tap. All you do is tap the device to your NFC-enabled home gateway (PN7150 NFC controller recommended), or tap your NFC-enabled smartphone to the device to initiate the process. NFC takes care of the rest, exchanging the necessary credentials and establishing communication.
If you’ve ever paired your smartphone with NFC with a Bluetooth device, such as a portable speaker or a fitness bracelet, then you’re already familiar with the basic process. Just a tap and off you go. Forget menu scrolling and device detection broadcast.
Private & secure
Any time you add a device to a network, there’s concerns about security and keeping private information safe. Since NFC only sends data over very short distances (typically 4-10 centimeters), NFC commissioning is therefore inherently secure. Contrast this with “over-the-air” commissioning, which relies on longer-range connectivity, such as cellular or Wi-Fi. These long-distances formats are more vulnerable to eavesdropping and are common targets for attack. The short read/write distance of NFC means data is kept close and confidential, protected from misuse or theft. On top NFC triggers the commissioning process on your intent only for only the device you selected. NFC commissioning can be made even more secure by adding a dedicated security IC, known as a secure element, to the system. Don’t forget that NFC is the backbone of state of the art security system such as banking and ePassport.
NFC commissioning works even if the device uses some other wireless protocol – such as ZigBee, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi – for the rest of its communications. NFC follows the specifications of the NFC Forum, and is designed to be what’s called “platform agnostic,” meaning it supports any number of communication formats. NFC is perfectly complementary with ZigBee, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, so there’s no need to choose one over the other – they can all work together from the beginning.
NFC works seamlessly with all three of the top home-automation protocols
|NFC||Device commissioning(with or without power to the device)||ISO/IEC 18092
|13.56 MHz||10 cm|
|ZigBee||Home automation(lighting, plugs, metering, security, appliances, etc.)||IEEE 802.15.4||2.4 GHz||> 100 m|
|Bluetooth||Portables and wearables(headphones, speakers, fitness bands, health monitors, etc)||IEEE 802.15.1||2.4 GHz||> 10 m|
|Wi-Fi||Home entertainment, productivity, security(TVs, monitors, game consoles, printers, IP cameras, routers, etc.)||IEEE 802.11||2.4 GHz||> 100 m|
NFC integration in the smart nodes is at a minimal footprint and very low power budget (no battery required) with device such as Connected NFC tags (NTAG I²C plus) since it can use the power from the NFC-enabled gateway or phone and it relies on Non-Volatile-Memory to store the network credentials. This Zero power configuration feature implies that the new device doesn’t have to be running or even plugged in to support NFC commissioning, which can save energy, time, and make the process even more customer friendly.
Additionally, NXP’s comprehensive smart home evaluation kit (EK004) was updated with this latest NTAG I²C generation.
- More about NTAG I²C plus
- More about the smart home evaluation kit by NXP
- All articles about NFC
- NFC Everywhere Technology Hub