Interview with Paula Hunter from the NFC Forum
Today, NFC is rapidly expanding to include a growing set of connected devices that depend on NFC tags to help deliver a consistent, satisfying user experience. However, organizations that manufacture products and offer services that use NFC tags currently have no way of establishing their tags’ compliance with NFC Forum technical specifications. For the NFC Forum, it became clear that the need existed for a Tag Certification Program. The NFC Forum recently announced its Tag Certification Program initiative in an effort to help tag vendors and solutions providers deliver a consistent, global connectivity experience across all applications and environments. We interviewed the NFC Forum’s Executive Director, Paula Hunter, to learn more about the new initiative and why it is a significant step forward for the industry.
Tell us about the NFC Forum Tag Certification Program initiative.
“The NFC Forum Tag Certification Program was unveiled in November 2016. It’s an initiative driven by the NFC Forum and its member companies to support market growth and global interoperability of NFC tags. The value of this program is that it helps standardize conformance among the various tag types and tag vendor products. For the first time, organizations involved in NFC tag-based products and services will have increased confidence that their offerings are interoperable with NFC-enabled mobile devices, as well as establishing their tags’ conformance with the NFC Forum’s technical specifications. We are calling upon tag vendors and solutions providers to join and participate in the effort.”
What kinds of NFC tags are in use today?
“NFC tags can be embedded in everything from posters, magazines, audio accessories and household appliances to business cards, retail shelf talkers, and other everyday consumer products. NFC tags make it easy to connect speakers and wireless headphones to mobile phones, deliver visitor information at museums, protect consumers from purchasing counterfeit goods, and much more. The Tag Certification Program applies to all tag types specified by the NFC Forum (Types 1/2/3/4/5), which are the most broadly supported tags in the industry.”
What are some hip and thrilling use cases for tags?
“It spans everything from clothing to appliances. Apparel brand Spyder recently announced that it is testing NFC technology by embedding NFC tags into the logos of some of its U.S. Ski Team (USST) jackets. Consumers simply tap an NFC-enabled smartphone or tablet against their jacket’s logo to view everything from local snow conditions to the latest information on USST. In a completely different use case, a series of new Vitamix blenders demoed at CES have NFC readers built into their appliance base and custom-built NFC tags embedded in the system’s containers and cups. Using Smartrac’s NFC-based SELF-DETECT™ technology, the blenders use NFC technology and tags to determine, based on the container type, if the user would like to prepare a hot soup, frozen sorbet, smoothie, or another recipe. Some people have even inserted tags under their skin for use as identification or gate access. They simply wave their hand in front of a reader and off they go.”
Why is certification of NFC tags important?
“According to ABI Research, 36.4 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020. The market for NFC tags is expected to grow at a significant compound annual growth rate as the technology becomes essential to transforming the consumer connectivity experience. The key to market growth will be to ensure that NFC tags - regardless of whether they are in an interactive parking poster, new kitchen product, or your favorite retail store - deliver a predictable experience for consumers. The members of the compliance initiative have been working to understand all the variables that could occur in the market and to provide tag vendors and solutions providers with a way to avoid performance issues through compliance and testing. As a result, companies will have increased assurance that their newly certified NFC tag-enabled products and services deliver a predictable experience for consumers.”
What are the NFC working groups that are involved in the initiative?
“Spearheaded by the NFC Forum’s Internet of Things Special Interest Group (SIG) and Compliance Committee, the new compliance initiative will be part of the established NFC Forum Certification Program. These groups will come together to streamline compliance and testing for NFC tags to provide a way that solutions providers and vendors can assure global interoperability with NFC-enabled mobile devices and deliver a reliable, enjoyable user experience.”
What’s are next steps for this certification initiative?
“The NFC Forum has established the Tag Certification Program’s organizational structure, work scope, and goals, and is now welcoming organizations in the tag industry to join the NFC Forum and contribute to the program. Companies that want to join the NFC Forum’s Internet of Things SIG or Compliance Committee as contributing members can request membership information from the NFC Forum here. The NFC Forum offers lower-cost Startup and Implementer membership levels for companies that plan to implement its standards and certify products. For information on how to join the NFC Forum, and participate in the Tag Certification Program, visit http://nfc-forum.org/about-us/join-the-forum/.”
Paula Hunter, Executive Director, NFC Forum
Paula Hunter has a deep and broad background in technology association leadership, management, marketing, operations, and business development. Before joining the NFC Forum, she served for several years as Executive Director of the Outercurve Foundation, a non-profit foundation with the mission of enabling the exchange of code and understanding among software companies and open source communities. Prior to Outercurve, she was Director of Operations for the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO), and director of worldwide marketing and business development for the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), where she was instrumental in driving membership growth to increase industry awareness of OSDL programs. Ms. Hunter’s experience also includes key roles in several technology companies, ranging from small start-ups to large multi-national corporations.
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