September 20, 2016 at 4:04 pm #56497
I’ve read that the NFC chip on the iphone is hardware limited, meaning that no matter what software you have you won’t be able to open a link with your current iphone, ever. Is this 100% true? Is this also the case with the new chip (likely a NXP 67V04) ?
As a feasible alternative to NFC I’m thinking about iBeacons, the annoying thing is that I need a passbook installed in the phone. Is there any other way to open a link directly without an app? – NO QR codes please.September 21, 2016 at 3:14 pm #56505
Hi Constantin, as you might have read in my post on Stack Overflow the iPhone’s hardware is not designed for reading NFC tags. Could the hardware included in the iPhone be made to read NFC tags and launch a URL link? Absolutely. But this is more likely going to be through jail-broken software than with official Apple software. The reason is user experience.
It’s well known that Apple guards user experience on their devices more than any other manufacturer. After building NFC readers for the consumer market for over 5 years now, I can tell you first hand that user experience is average at best. And that has been with antenna sizes much larger than the space the iPhone has to work with. When it comes to inductive coupling and load modulation, there’s laws of physics that even Apple must abide by.
Now an all glass back could introduce some interesting options for the iPhone when it comes to NFC tag discovery. The non-conductive aspects of glass make it ideal for molding the NFC antenna into it. The same antenna coil could be used for wireless charging as well. The remaining problems though, would be power drain from NFC polling and weak standards auditing of readily available NFC tags. This is an ongoing challenge for us and I don’t see things getting better overnight.
As depicted in the image above and prominently on our home page, we have been able to approximate the experience of scanning an NFC tag on Android with our FloBLE Mini design. The way this works is through Apple Wallet passes with NFC support. These require special approval from Apple but by presenting Wallet passes with unique ID’s to our FloBLE reader, we’re able to loopback a notification to the iPhone via an App over Bluetooth or Push Notification. Although we can automate the launching of the App, the notification (via ANCS) can prompt the user to do so. Here’s an architecture diagram that illustrates how it works:
In order to set this up you will need to get an NFC certificate from Apple and a NFC reader that supports Enhanced Contactless Polling mode. These aren’t easy to come by but at Flomio we are working to bring these services and hardware to developers. It’s far from a trivial challenge and we could use all the help we can get, especially through sales of our products, promotion on social media, or one-off project work.
RichardDecember 14, 2017 at 1:15 pm #61856
Is there an update to this response now that iPhones both support reading NFC tags and have glass backs? Thank you.
December 14, 2017 at 2:04 pm #61858
- This reply was modified 8 months ago by Daniel.
Hi Dan, indeed Apple enabled NFC tag reading in iOS11 but the functionality is limited to the iPhone7 and later hardware. From a hardware standpoint, when comparing iPhone7 (metal back) against the iPhone8 (glass back) we have observed a better tag read experience. Mainly an expanded scan surface and distance to target. We expect read performance to improve going forward as NFC technology becomes more adopted across the consumer landscape.
From a software standpoint the iOS11 release only supports reading NDEF data off of NFC tags. This is a substantially limitation and leaves out a lot of security features that the NFC standard supports. It’s unclear when support will be expanded in later iOS releases since there’s a hardware dependency with getting secure applications to work properly. Secure target tags (NFC Forum Type4 tags, for instance), typically draw more current to operate and the iPhone hardware has yet to prove itself there.
Let me know if you have more questions on the subject. Glad to lend insight as to where we see the market evolving.
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