Chip alliance a boost for NFC 'talking gadgets'

Google's Nexus S NFC-capable smartphone. Photo / Supplied
Google's Nexus S NFC-capable smartphone. Photo / Supplied

Intel and INSIDE Secure have unveiled an alliance which will enable the US chip colossus to make processors that let mobile gadgets act as wallets, tickets, car finders and more.

An agreement between the firms gives Intel access to software and hardware technology at INSIDE, which specialises in near-field communications (NFC) that give chips the ability to securely exchange data wirelessly at short range.

"NFC is gaining traction in many markets as one of the most convenient ways to use consumer electronic devices for payments and retail commerce transactions, for access to facilities and information, and a host of other applications," said Intel mobile wireless group vice president Aicha Evans.

"We look forward to working with INSIDE to develop and bring to market a range of exciting connectivity solutions for mainstream consumer products that incorporate NFC features."

The companies did not disclose financial terms of the agreement.

Intel is considering including NFC capabilities in designs used to showing ways chips can be used in products but was not ready to share specifics, according to company spokeswoman Agnes Kwan.

"We are seeing a lot of interesting developments in the industry and we do see that NFC has great potential for consumer devices," Kwan told AFP.

INSIDE, which was founded in 1995 and has its headquarters in Aix-en-Provence in France, has seem booming interest in NFC this year, according to chief operating officer Charles Walton.

The company shipped 10 million NFC chip sets to market in the third quarter and is on "an accelerated track," said Walton.

"We've spent years perfecting this technology," he said. "We've given Intel a real advantage in getting to market fast."

Uses for NFC chips include holding financial information to serve as wallets, getting news about films or products by waving smartphones near posters, and being guided to cars in large garages, according to INSIDE.

Google in September cleared the way for customers to pay at participating shops using Google Nexus S 4G smartphones on the Sprint telecom network and promising more Android handsets to come.

Google Wallet uses NFC chips embedded in a phone to allow users to "tap-and-pay" for purchases at checkout registers equipped with the PayPass system from CitiMasterCard.

Chips essentially transmit credit card details to sensors at checkouts to consummate purchases.

Customers can also use a Google Prepaid card to pay for purchases, topping up the Google card with any payment card, and take advantage of Google Offers, the Mountain View, California-based company's online discount coupon program.

NFC technology is being tested or used in a number of countries already, notably France, but Google Wallet was the first to bring it to the United States on a potentially large scale.
Intel in September teamed with Google to tailor chips to get top performance out of smartphones powered by the Internet giant's Android software.

The partnership with the world's largest computer chip maker came as Google ramped up its push into the hot smartphone market with a deal to buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion.

Illinois-based Motorola Mobility makes mobile phones, tablet computers and TV set-top boxes -- areas where the Silicon Valley-based Google has no experience other than writing the software to power the devices.

Smartphones powered by Google's free Android mobile software have been soaring in popularity and become targets of patent lawsuits by iPhone maker Apple.

The joint effort by Google and Intel is aimed at quickly bringing to market a family of Atom processors that will drive Android smartphones.

The two northern California technology titans have a history of working together to harmonise chips and software on projects including Google TV and Chrome notebook computers.

- AFP

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