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Nokia targets firms with smart RFID kit

Companies whose employees work out and about could improve their communications by giving their mobile phones RFID-reading powers

Nokia has begun selling a product that turns one of its mobile phone models into a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag reader.

The Nokia Mobile RFID Kit is aimed at enterprises in the security, services, utilities and health care sectors whose employees often work 'in the field'. Each unit consists of two shells that each fit to a Nokia 5140 -- a ruggedised handset designed for outdoor use -- giving it RFID-reading functionality.

Once the shell has been fitted, the 5140 can interact with objects that contain an RFID tag, for example a meter or billboard, just by being tapped against them.

Nokia's product is based on Near Field Communication (NFC), a version of RFID that can act as an authentication mechanism. NFC can be used to send information between the handset and the tagged object that could initiate a connection using another wireless technology, such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

Nokia says that the Mobile RFID Kit will let a workers send information back to their office by tapping their phone against an NFC-enabled object. This could be a customer's electricity meter, which would yield location data that the phone would relay back over GPRS or SMS.

A company could then choose to send information back to the phone. For example, a utility firm could send detailed instructions about a particular task once an employee is on site.

Nokia first unveiled the product at the CeBIT trade show in March 2004, when Nokia said it would launch commercially last summer.

Gerhard Romen, head of market developments at Nokia Ventures, denied that the product had been hit by delays, and said Nokia had held back from commercial launch until now while it absorbed customer feedback and waited until the market was ready.

Along with the likes of Philips, Nokia is making significant strides in NFC. Late last year it launched an NFC shell for its 3220 handset, which is aimed at the consumer market.

Romen declined to speculate on which other Nokia phones might get NFC-capability in the future, but said that Nokia was fully committed to the wireless technology as it offered many advantages to consumers.

"NFC requires very simple behaviour from users, as people like to touch things," said Romen, adding that usability is increasingly important as phones become more complicated.

"Everyone today knows where to put the ignition key in a car, even though cars are very complicated… that's the level we're driving for" Romen added.

More on Near Field Communication:

Nokia, Philips and Sony establish the Near Field Communication (NFC) Forum

Forum will drive industry-uptake of intuitive NFC technology that enables touch-based interaction with electronic devices

Nokia Corporation, Royal Philips Electronics (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHI) and Sony Corporation establish the Near Field Communication (NFC) Forum to enable the use of touch-based interactions in consumer electronics, mobile devices, PCs, smart objects and for payment purposes. Touch-based interactions will allow users to access content and services in an intuitive way by touching smart objects and connecting devices just by holding them next to each other. The new forum will promote implementation and standardization of NFC technology to ensure interoperability between devices and services.

Consumers are seeking easier ways to interact with their immediate environment and to enable easy communication between their electronic devices and gain access to services. The vision of the NFC Forum is to enable users to access content and services in an intuitive way. To bring this vision to life, Nokia, Philips and Sony invite other leading companies from mobile communications, consumer electronics, chip manufacturing, computing, media and entertainment, telecom and payment services to join the NFC Forum.

“At Philips our focus is giving consumers easy access to information, entertainment and services - NFC does just that,” said Scott McGregor, President and Chief Executive Officer, Philips Semiconductors. “Enabling easy transfer of information between consumer devices from phone numbers to electronic transactions, NFC bridges today’s connectivity gap and allows ‘connected consumers’ to interact with their environment. By pushing the technology with the backing of an industry organization such as the NFC Forum, NFC will soon open up a range of new opportunities for the consumer.”

"Nokia sees touch-based interactions, enabled by Near Field Communciation technology, as an elegant way of bringing Nokia’s Life goes Mobile vision into reality,” said Pertti Korhonen Chief-Technology Officer, Senior Vice President, Nokia. "Touch is an intuitive and easy way to connect, collect and share with mobile devices. It will not only enhance the experience of using current services but also create entirely new applications and value. Nokia is looking forward to working with the other members to bring this exciting new user experience to the mobile world."

"Sony positions NFC as a new form of user interface technology for consumer electronics products, and will strongly promote integration of NFC into numerous products across a wide variety of industries," said Teruaki Aoki, Senior Executive Vice President, Sony Corporation. "The use of NFC technology in consumer electronics devices will increase opportunities for users to transfer data, implement secure transactions and download rich content. We have high expectations that this will significantly enhance the convenience and enjoyability of products and services. The activities of the NFC Forum will be to focus on ensuring interoperability among various devices which will be crucial for high acceptance of NFC technology, and Sony will proactively participate in these efforts."

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