11/10/2015

New NFC ring, better with twice the NFC

Last week seems to be the week of NFC (Moo launched it's Business Card+ NFC cards, see previous article) and John McLear has launched the second series of his NFC ring.

The original NFC ring was launched on Kickstarter and though the campaign was a success, rings took far longer to arrive than expected due to production difficulties. Now there's a second NFC ring (also launched on Kickstarter, the campaign is active), which is nicer and better than the first.

The new ring is made from ceramic and looks much smarter than the first series. It has TWO NFC inlays based on the NTAG216 NFC chip made by NCP semiconductors. This allows to the ring to be dual use and store both public and private information. Use one NFC chip to store something like a website address and use the other to store secret info which could be used to unlock a phone (and with the appropriate hardware even a house lock etc). The chips work in the 13.56MHz band and can store up to 888 bytes of information (and that info will be held for up to 10 years). The chips support 100,000 write cycles (unlikely people will change the info stored that often, but in a retail environment that could happen).

The ring is laser engraved with the NFC logo on the inside making it easy to differentiate which is the public and private side of the ring.

The NFC supports 3 modes: -

  • open, which allows the user to write the data into chip (and also anybody else who might have an NFC writer in the vicinity)
  • closed, whereby once set, the data in the chip can never be changed again
  • code lock, this allows setting a code and data on the chip can only be set once the code has been verified by the chip

Currently code lock is not implemented in the Android app that accompanies the ring, but it will be in the future.

The early bird price for the NFC ring was £18 (all gone), but it's still possible to pledge £23 and get one (it's possible to order multiples too). It's also possible to get 2 NFC inlays for £5 and 4 for £10 so users can build their own ring designs (the inlays are 20mm by 6mm by 0.2mm).

Unfortunately NFC is only really usable on Android/Windows and Blackberry users (there's lots of programs available to program the chips including ones by NXP themselves). Since Android 5.0 the smart lock application is included in the base operating system so a phone can be unlocked with an NFC tag.

MacOS X/iOS users are once again out of luck as there's no real native support in the operating systems themselves, though 3rd party NFC add ons are available.

In future it may even be possible to pay for goods with the NFC ring utilising contactless payment technology (though it will require addition security so the crew card tokens/keys can be securely stored in the rings).

The Kickstarter campaign ends on the 21st Oct 2015.

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