I want to add NFC (Near Field Communication) to a cheap consumer product with an existing microcontroller.

I need to be able to pass a chunk of static data to a smartphone.

I'd like to be able to pass dynamic data to the smartphone in both directions. (ie. have the microcontroller use NFC as a low speed communication link). But, not if it significantly adds to the system cost.

Low system cost and low power are both important.

There seem to be many different wireless technologies calling themselves NFC, I want the kind that will work with smartphones.

What device(s) would be best for this task?

  • \$\begingroup\$ What on earth is NFC? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 22, 2011 at 19:51
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Leon National Football Conference? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dean
    Jun 22, 2011 at 19:53
  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ It was even the first result from Google. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_field_communication \$\endgroup\$
    – W5VO
    Jun 22, 2011 at 20:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know if any smart phones implement it now, but Bluetooth 2.1 appears to be incorporating an NFC component to initialize connections. Perhaps one approach would be to establish a connection when in range, and severe it once your data transaction is finished. I don't imagine this being cheap, and I don't know enough about Bluetooth to make this an answer... but it fits the other requirements of 2-way data communication and "working with smart phones". Given the cost, I assume that you've already ruled out BT. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jon L
    Jun 22, 2011 at 23:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ What type of product are you talking about, what are your potential customers, and how do you want to sell it? For selling a PIC programmer online to electro geek types your prototype-level might be enough. Been there, doing that now, it is fun. Selling through wall-mart to the general public will need a radically different approach, including a large marketing budget. No experience on my side with that. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 30, 2011 at 7:47

3 Answers 3


Pretty much your only option are NXP chips such as the PN531 (old), PN532, and PN544. The PN544 is the one in Samsung's Nexus S phone. Most NFC cards these days are MiFare-base and since NXP owns the MiFare IP (and doesn't license it to anyone else) their chips are pretty much the only ones around. I'm working with the PN532 myself and it's not bad. You can talk to it via UART, I2C, or SPI. They're not that cheap (considering the monopoly) but aren't crazily priced either.

Whenever she gets it back in stock, I'd recommend starting with Adafruit's PN532 breakout board http://www.adafruit.com/products/364 and have a look at the PN532's user manual and datasheet in the meantime.

As for communication with smartphones, that'll involve the Peer-to-peer communication mode of NFC. But if all you want is to pass static content, just get a bunch of MiFare tags from Alibaba or something; they won't be more than $0.70 depending on size and form factor. They are blank and can be programmed (and locked) via a cheap USB NFC transceiver. For that I'd recommend the SCM SCL3711.

Good luck!


To complete nemik's answer you can use the following NFC chips supporting card emulation: NXP PT501, PN512 and PN532.

The PT501 would be a great fit for your application but the PN512 should be easier to source in the short term (the PT501 has recently been released by NXP).

You can get some evaluation boards for these chips here: http://www.nxp.com/demoboard/PNEV512B.html http://www.nxp.com/demoboard/PTEV501B.html

And also Adafruits's PN532 board is a great, easily available board as mentioned by nemik.

Regarding the software this is exactly what our company offers with our MicroNFCStack.

We have a couple examples demonstrating how to communicate with an Android phone:

Here is a link to a firmware generator to test communication between a PNxxx device and Android phone/tablet.


You can use the Dynamic Tags HF/NFC with a PCB antenna, they are memories with dual interfaces (one is RFID/NFC ISO15693 or ISO14443A family dependent, and the other is a wired interface with the MCU, in general I2C).

I know two suppliers:

  • ST with the 2 families M24LRxxE (Long Range, vicinity ISO15693) and Energy Haversting and M24SRxx (Short range ISO14443A/NFC native compliant).

  • NXP NTAG I2C (ISO14443A, Energy Harvesting and 64Bytes SRAM).

They are very low cost and zero power because they can work also if the board is without power, because the NFC Smartphone can give energy to the memory chip via the inductive coupling of the two antennas of the reader and tag (the memory IC+ antenna).


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