NFC could be available for all mobile phones

CARTES award-winning chip could add NFC to old phones

SIM cards with built-in contactless communications could speed the adoption of mobile wallets, e-ticketing and other NFC (near-field communications) applications, Chinese and French engineers have claimed.

French electronics company INSIDE Secure made the claim as an NFC-SIM card based on its new PicoPulse booster chip won an innovation award at the Cartes 2012 exhibition this week.

As well as being a subscriber identity module, NFC-SIM – which was developed by Chinese electronics company Sunward Telecom – features all the components of a NFC solution, including the antenna.

This should remove one of the major blocks to NFC adoption, which is that only a few modern mobile phones have it built in, said Pierre Garnier, executive VP for the NFC and secure payment divisions at INSIDE Secure. Putting it into the SIM will enable network operators to deploy NFC services without making their customers buy new phones, he explained.

Sunward has already achieved some success in the Chinese market with RF-SIM, an earlier product with combines SIM and 2.4GHz RFID (radio frequency identification) technologies. However, with China Mobile and other operators now rolling out 13.5MHz NFC systems, Sunward is using INSIDE's VaultSecure secure element and its new PicoPulse chip to enter that market too.

Garnier said that PicoPulse's booster function mitigates the metal shielding and electrical noise typically found inside mobile devices.

This enables the NFC-SIM to use an antenna measuring just 10x5mm – slightly smaller than the metal pad covering the electronics – yet still achieve industry-standard transaction performance, even when the SIM card is inserted under or beside the battery. 

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