NXP to Provide NFC Technology for Xiaomi PonPon 2.0 Stickers

11-11-2020 | By Sam Brown

Recently, NXP announced that it would be providing the NFC technology needed to power Xiaomi PonPon 2.0 stickers. What is NFC, what is NXP providing to Xiaomi, and what role can NFC play in IoT products?

What is NFC?

NFC is an acronym for a short-range radio technology called Near Field Communication. It is responsible for many technologies around the world, including NFC payments, smart cards, and ID badges. While multiple standards exist, which all describe different protocols, most use the same fundamental principles, which is the use of low power, short-range inductive coupling, to couple two devices together. NFC devices generally have a range no more than 4cm, and this provides NFC with some security advantages as NFC signals do not propagate nearly as far as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. The use of inductive coupling also means that NFC devices can provide power to each other, thus meaning that one NFC device in a pair can lack any power supply entirely. This is commonly seen with access cards and contactless debit cards whereby the card reader provides power to the card. The term antenna must be discouraged when talking about NFC as NFC technology does not use radio technology, but instead inductive technology (i.e. same principle that powers transformers). 

Who are NXP?

NXP is an American Dutch semiconductor manufacturer that produces a wide range of semiconductor products including RF front-ends, discrete logic, mixed-signal, analogue, and automotive gateways. With other 31,000 employees, NXP is a global force in the semiconductor industry and has a yearly revenue stream of $9.41 billion. NXP has been responsible for the development of key technologies including I2C, co-inventor of NFC, electronic passports, and RFID tags, and is now working towards IoT technologies for use in automotive systems, industry, and smart cities. 

How is Xiaomi using NXP technology in its product range?

Recently, Xiaomi announced that they would be using NXP NFC technology to power their latest product, the PonPon 2.0 stickers. These stickers are NFC tags that are attached to IoT and other smart Xiaomi stickers, and these tags allow users to interface their phones with Mi products. The purpose of the tags allows for Mi products to easily transfer unique information regarding the product to the Mi Home app, and from there allow users to control their devices remotely, as well as see crucial information regarding their Mi products. The PonPon 2.0 stickers utilising NFC Forum Tag Certified technology which allows tags to store protected on-chip storage of NDEF formatted data, and this data can be read and written with the use of a Xiaomi phone. 

What should be noted is that these stickers are not necessarily on the Mi device themselves; they can be stuck anywhere and be scanned by a Xiaomi phone. This allows for stickers to be scanned anywhere in the world, and then allow for remote control of the device it is linked to. For example, a room with a smart light bulb could have a sticker in place of a light switch on the wall, and the bulb can be controlled by scanning the tag and adding the device to the app. From there, the bulb can be controlled from the phone without the need for a light switch or complicated method for adding the device to the app. 

Why could NFC be critical to future IoT technology?

The use of NFC tags to control IoT devices provides a whole range of potential applications. One of the biggest challenges in IoT devices is security; many devices on the market still utilise poor practices such as weak default passwords, unencrypted communication, and remote access enabled by default. NFC stickers could provide IoT devices with a simple yet effective solution for improving their security. Firstly, NFC stickers can be used to hold configuration data, including login and passwords for IoT devices. This means that they can be made extremely complex as well as not requiring these details to be directly printed to either the IoT device or the box that it came in. NFC stickers are also useful as they can only be accessed in close proximity, thus eliminating the ability for remote attacks. Thirdly, even if attackers were able to get to the NFC stickers, data stored on them can be encrypted and thus only authorised apps can access the data. Thus, NFC stickers provide a convenient setup method that can hold strong security credentials that are hard to share. 

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By Sam Brown