Near field communication (NFC) is the radio technology that allows you to pay for things by holding a credit card or cell phone up to a sensor. NFC technology is rapidly being adopted in transportation, retail, health care, entertainment, and other applications. Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) is a radio communications technology that uses existing cellular infrastructure to communicate with and collect data from remote sensors, possibly over a distance of several miles. At first glance, it may seem that these two technologies have nothing in common, but in fact they have several commonalities.
Commonalities of NFC and NB-IoT
The first commonalities are obvious: both NFC and NB-IoT are wireless communications technologies, and both will have a large impact on the world economy. Most new cell phones come standard with NFC, and the number of devices using each technology will likely soon outnumber people. Furthermore, both NFC and NB-IoT have significant requirements for data security, as both are tempting targets.
From a technical perspective, both NFC and NB-IoT transmit small data packets intermittently and infrequently. Both use very inexpensive transmitters, and both transmit with very small amounts of power. Therefore, both NFC and NB-IoT devices require extensive testing to make sure that they operate robustly and securely, even in noisy electromagnetic environments. This includes tests in the component development, system integration, certification, and operator acceptance phases of product development.
Testing NFC Devices
To guarantee a successful roll out, compliance and interoperability testing are required. Some industry organizations, such as the NFC Forum, have already developed technical and test specifications to enable developers to successfully test and certify their NFC devices. Keysight has multiple solutions for NFC testing, including the one-box, standalone RIDER Test System (shown below). The system can execute NFC RF and protocol measurements throughout the product development cycle, and it can flexibly evolve along with NFC standards.
The RIDER Test System can emulate NFC readers and tags; generate, acquire, and analyze signals; code and decode protocols, and perform conformance testing. It also includes an optional Automatic Positioning Robot (shown below) for the accurate, automatic positioning of test interfaces that NFC Forum specifications require.
Keysight InfiniiVision 3000T and 4000A oscilloscopes also include an NFC trigger option. It includes hardware NFC triggering, PC-based automated tests for Poller and Listener modes and resonant frequency test capabilities. This automated NFC test system is ideal for manufacturing and design validation test.
Testing NB-IoT Devices
Like NFC, NB-IoT devices require sophisticated test solutions. In addition to the RF testing and coverage enhancement testing, battery runtime testing is essential for NB-IoT devices. Because IoT devices have deep sleep modes that quickly transmit into short RF transmission modes, a large dynamic range is critical. Power analyzers with seamless ranging are therefore very popular for these applications.
The Keysight E7515A UXM Wireless Test Set is a robust test solution for NB-IoT. It acts as a base station and network emulator to connect and control the NB-IoT devices into different operating modes. You can also synchronize it with the N6705C DC Power Analyzer to perform battery drain analysis on NB-IoT devices. See this application note for more details. The UXM Wireless Test Set makes Keysight the first company with end-to-end simulation, design verification test and production/manufacturing test solutions for NB-IoT. Follow this blog for more information about IoT testing.