The past years have seen user experience become increasingly integral to innovations around and inside cars. One key aspect included in this trend is the charging of mobile phones. Although this feature has been present for some time, it just got a much-needed makeover with the integration of Qi wireless charging and Near Field Communication (NFC).
Both Qi and NFC operate using inductive coupling. In this new setup in cars, Qi enables the charging of mobile phones and NFC, wireless communication over a short distance. You just have to put your phone down onto the charger and it immediately establishes connectivity to exchange data via NFC and to charge via Qi.
All the Convenience and Efficiency in One Spot
Qi charging and NFC complement each other to address a new generation of automotive use cases. Thus, it was expected at some point that both would share the same location in the middle console of cars. The benefits of having them in one spot are quite obvious. It is all about the user convenience, driver comfort and safety of NFC cards.
The smartphone needs to be placed in one spot to perform authorization for engine start via NFC, according to the CCC scheme, and to be charged via the Qi subsystem. In addition, the NFC is there to detect smart cards, tags and key fobs—and prevent their destruction by the active Qi field. The risk of such an unwanted event increased in recent years due to the Qi standard moving from 5W to 15W+ charging power.
With a combined Qi and NFC solution, there is no need to place the phone in two different locations in the car. Just one electronic control unit (ECU) manages combined Wi-Fi® and Bluetooth®, saving space and integration efforts in the car. Since Bluetooth and Wi-fi require authentication to connect phones to car electronics, Wi-Fi can also automatically connect the phone via out-of-band pairing to the car’s Wi-fi and Bluetooth networks. This is possible without going through any specific configuration process.
Top-Notch RF Performance for Seamless Integration in the Middle Console
NFC and Qi charging require inductive antennas and coils to transfer data and sufficient energy using the same surface or volume, given the changes the new Qi2 standard with magnetic alignment is bringing. This definitively presents some technical hurdles in their integration due to the extra complexity from materials and limited space, which gives no room for communication or charging blind spots.
NFC devices that offer top-notch radio frequency (RF) performance are crucial to overcoming those integration challenges and ensuring reliable communication with the phones and detuned cards across full-charging surfaces. It is important to distinguish between the phones emulating cards and the cards themselves. If the phone emulates only a Type A or B technology, it is indistinguishable on the protocol level from a card of the same type. For this reason, there is a clear need for extra capabilities to extend the protocol-based distinguishing, with measurements of analog properties of the cards and the phones.
NXP is Providing the Right Enablement
The NCx3321 and MWCT2xxx family are the latest products from NXP offering excellent RF capabilities and a unique feature set optimized for optimal performance in the middle console applications. By offering high-RF output power combined with dynamic power control and excellent sensitivity, NCx3321 is the right choice for automotive customers requesting extended operating volume. The innovative Analog Sense feature for distinguishing smart cards from smartphones is a real game changer in enabling effective card protection for Qi chargers.
On top of the very compelling hardware, NXP also offers the Automotive NFC Library with asynchronous API and a full feature set according to the NFC Forum CR13/CCC specification. This software is also available as AUTOSAR Complex Device Driver to speed up the development of automotive NFC applications. These unique features and the complete hardware and software offering, make NCx3321 suitable for use in a wide range of automotive applications involving security (car access), safety (NFC card protection) and convenience (Bluetooth LE / Wi-Fi Pairing).