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Short-distance wireless NFC and Bluetooth groups getting cozy

NFC Forum and Bluetooth SIG agree to jointly work on interoperability between the two technologies

November 12, 2013 10:40 AM ET

Computerworld - Short-distance wireless groups supporting NFC and Bluetooth have agreed to jointly create greater interoperability between the complementary technologies.

The NFC (Near-Field Communication) Forum and the Bluetooth SIG (Special Interest Group) Tuesday announced that they had agreed to a "formal liaison relationship" by signing a memorandum of understanding to work more closely together.

The groups had already worked together last year to create "Bluetooth Secure Simple Pairing Using NFC,"a guide for developers.

The groups have agreed to update and maintain that document to recognize emerging technology in Bluetooth 4.0 with its low energy specification. Both groups may also sponsor joint interoperability testing events that incorporate NFC technology testing with Bluetooth technology.

NFC and Bluetooth wireless are complementary technologies, though NFC connections from a smartphone to an NFC-ready terminal must be less than an inch or so, while Bluetooth works over a distance of about 30 feet.

Hardware manufacturers can now use NFC in conjunction with Bluetooth Secure Simple Pairing to support handovers of a wireless signal between Bluetooth devices, including wireless headsets, health devices, smartphones, car tech and TVs.

For example, the latest Samsung Android smartphones, such as the Galaxy S4, support S Beam, a quick data transfer between such phones. The data transfer is kicked off with an NFC connection at close proximity, then completed over faster Bluetooth. (The underlying software in Android is called Android Beam.)

NFC is considered highly secure primarily because it requires two NFC devices to be very close together to make a connection.

There are about 400 million NFC-ready devices deployed in 2013, and the number is expected to grow to 1 billion by 2016, according to NFC Forum Executive Director Paula Hunter.

As for Bluetooth, about 20,000 companies that are members of the SIG have shipped about 3 billion Bluetooth-ready devices globally in 2013, a number expected to reach 8 billion by 2016, said Chuck Sabin, director of product management at the Bluetooth SIG.

"As the low-power link of the Internet of Things, Bluetooth is growing aggressively in diverse use cases that can benefit from collaboration between the Bluetooth SIG and NFC Forum," Sabin said.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at Twitter@matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed Hamblen RSS. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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