Today, we regularly spoiled by very cheap, compact memory to the point where 16 gigabytes on a microSD card the size of a postage stamp is not only unremarkable, but has become expected; however, in NFC chips, cost, small die sizes and low power usage are of critical importance. Therefore, there is very little memory on most NFC chips — an NXP MIFARE Ultralight only has 48 bytes of read/write memory.
Introduction A topic that is beginning to come up more and more these days is the difference between an NFC reader chip and an NFC controller chip. This would be something considered by those who require an NFC reader for a custom application where the off the shelf reader is not feasible for some reason. I decided to write a knowledge base article about this very important distinction. The designer must pay close attention when selecting which one is the best option for the project.
What is NFC? Near Field Communication (NFC) is a short-range wireless communication standard similar to BLE or Wi-Fi, but works over short range typically 10cm or less. NFC is a radio frequency (RF) signal initiated by an active NFC device such as a smartphone or reader, and another active or passive device such as an NFC tag to transfer data. All NFC tags consist of an antenna coil and a small chip that is bonded to the antenna.
Even after a decade since the term Near Field Communication (NFC) was introduced, I still have clients, advisors and prospective customers ask me if NFC can be used to track physical location or operate at multiple meter ranges. Although NFC is considered a subset of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in the hierarchy of electrical engineering applications, there are several distinctions that make them suitable to different applications. NFC is designed to realize a fundamentally different set of features than those supported by traditional UHF RFID.