Under the hood with NFC: Inside a wireless system

Near Field Communication, the simple, intuitive technology that lets you initiate transactions with a simple touch, is now in hundreds of millions of smartphones, tablets, and other consumer electronics, with new devices arriving almost daily. NFC has the potential to transform all kinds of applications, but every NFC system uses a similar architecture. Here’s a diagram that shows the basic setup:


The diagram shows two NFC-enabled systems. The first, in the middle of the diagram, could be a POS terminal, a set-top box, or a consumer appliance like a microwave oven or a washing machine. It uses an NFC IC to support the three operating modes (Read/Write, Peer-to-Peer, and Card Emulation). The host controller manages the NFC process, and any transactions that require a higher level of security are performed in the optional onboard Secure Access Module (SAM). The contact reader IC is also optional. It adds support for contact-based smartcards, and makes the system compatible with payment, identification, and access cards that use standards like ISO/IEC 7816.

The second NFC-enabled system, on the right, could be a smartphone, a contactless smartcard, or some other electronic device equipped with an NFC tag. For NFC transactions, this second system can use the RF field generated by the first system. As a result, the second system doesn’t need to be powered while the NFC transaction takes place.

Look at real-world systems

For more block diagrams that show how NFC can be integrated into an application, check out these NFC-enabled systems:


Get the details

For an online overview of what NFC is and what it can do for you, visit our NFC Everywhere website. For the next level in technical detail, including a product selector guide, download the NFC Everywhere brochure.

Laurent Dardé
Laurent Dardé
Laurent Dardé is Marketing Director for Security and Connectivity at NXP Semiconductors. In his more than 18 years in the technology industry, he has managed engineering groups in the automotive and consumer segments, with a special emphasis on multimedia, communications, and lifestyle products. His present position, which involves developing new markets for NFC technology, lets him build on his passion for the customer experience, and leverages his certification as a LEAN Six Sigma Black Belt.

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