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New class of wearables unveiled

The NFC Forum has announced the first wearable device class using near-field communication, aimed at low-cost solutions

The NFC Forum has unveiled a new standard for a miniature, low-cost, and sustainable solution for wireless wearable devices. The body, which oversees standards in the near-field communication (NFC) technology that allows for phones to pair or pay with a tap, has announced the new NFC Device Class for device manufacturers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that use software from third parties.

The Card Emulation (CE) Device class allows devices to emulate a contactless card. It is the first of its kind, answering an industry need for wearable devices that provide basic functionality and longer battery life in a tiny footprint while maintaining interoperability with the NFC eco-system. Wearables are electronic devices that are physically worn by individuals or embedded into clothing and can provide a variety of services such as health monitoring and payment.

The CE Device works by emulating a contactless card and providing connectivity into an existing framework like a payment or access application. Typical use cases along with the emulation of contactless banking cards for payment include fitness trackers and sports watches, smart glasses and smart clothing, public transport contactless tickets, smart rings, key fobs, gate access or anywhere card emulation functionality is required. The Car Connectivity Consortium released an NFC CE-compliant specification in version 2.0 of its Digital Key Specification.

“The CE Device creates a new category for wearables offering miniature housings and extended battery life in a more cost-effective form factor,” said Mike McCamon, executive director, NFC Forum. “The increase in the use of wearables is being driven by the adoption of new use cases for NFC-enabled wearable devices beyond today’s payment applications.”

The CE Device class is one of seven NFC device classes. Products created in this device class can be certified by the NFC Forum to ensure interoperability with other NFC-enabled products within the NFC eco-system.

The CE Device is a subset of the NFC mobile device class, optimized for the most common wearable use cases. For example, the CE Device does not need to offer NFC Reader/Writer mode, since this feature is not used in most wearables. The advantage here is that a CE device enables manufacturers to reduce the footprint and extend the battery life by excluding such unused or rarely used features.

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