Networking

Inside Secure Offers Alternative Android NFC Software Stack

Inside Secure hopes to make it easier for Android phone designers to use its NFC chips -- or those of its competitors -- with the release of a version of its Open NFC software stack for Android.

Android 2.3 already includes an API (application programming interface) to read data from NFC (Near Field Communication) tags, and that API is already used by Google's Nexus S phone to read NFC smart tags.

So far, Android's NFC code only works with chips from one manufacturer, NXP Semiconductors, according to the Executive Vice President for Inside Secure's NFC business line, Philippe Martineau.

Adapting that code for other chips will be difficult, because its hardware-specific elements are scattered throughout the code, Martineau said.

Inside Secure hopes to make life easier for manufacturers of NFC chips or of new phones using those chips with its Open NFC software. The code has already been used in phones running other operating systems, and is already at version 4.2.

One of Open NFC's key features, said Martineau, is a hardware abstraction layer gathering together all the elements that need to be changed to make the code work with different chips. That will make it easy for other chip manufacturers to support the code, he said.

Now, Inside Secure has ported the software to Android. It will make Open NFC available for download from its website by the end of February under the Version 2.0 of the Apache license, the same license Google uses to distribute Android.

In addition to Android's API to read NFC data, Open NFC includes code to write data to smart tags, and to exchange data with NFC chips in other phones, acting as a kind of NFC router. When Android adds APIs for such functions it will be a simple matter to add a matching wrapper to the Open NFC code, said Martineau.

For now, Martineau is coy about which phone manufacturers plan to incorporate Inside Secure's NFC chips in their products.

"By Q2, there should be some partner announcements," he said.

Inside Secure is also behind another move to open up NFC and upset another market in which NXP has an entrenched position: it is part of the Open Standard for Public Transport Alliance pushing a new public transit payment card specification.

Peter Sayer covers open source software, European intellectual property legislation and general technology breaking news for IDG News Service. Send comments and news tips to Peter at peter_sayer@idg.com.

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