ST as a leader in digital car-key technology introduces Next-Generation NFC Reader IC designed for Car Connectivity Consortium

STMicroelectronics has extended its portfolio of ST25R NFC reader ICs with a new addition to the successful digital car key line, the ST25R3920. The new device introduces enhanced features for stronger performance, including rapid key response and extended range. Mr. Amit Sethi, Technical Marketing Manager, MMY, India, STMicroelectronics shares more details about this new product and latest trends in NFC.
What are the new technology trends for NFC?

NFC enables end-to-end communication using the 13.56Mhz radio frequency, making it possible for two NFC-enabled devices (like a phone and a doorhandle NFC reader) to wirelessly exchange information with a tap only. This technological innovation which is becoming increasingly popular in today’s mobile market, has enabled new trends in today’s world including Cashless & Cardless Payment Solution, Smart NFC posters for increasing brand value by creating product awareness, NFC Prepayment solutions for the energy management, and brand protection to fight against counterfeiting, Conveniently connecting, commissioning and controlling IoT devices in a smart network and as an enabler for many new in-car functions are a few new trends in the current market scenario.

Obviously the digital car key is the newest trend backed by the main smartphone and car companies.

Can you explain the function of digital car keys with NFC? What are the advantages of this feature?

The Digital Key leverages Near Field Communication (NFC) technology for contactless communication between smartphones and vehicles. Digital Key is a standardized ecosystem defined by the Car Connectivity Consoritum (CCC standard) that enables mobile devices to store, authenticate, and share Digital Keys for vehicles in a secure, privacy-preserving way that works everywhere. The guiding principle for using smart devices as car keys is the convenience and ease of use for the consumer. Vehicle owners will be able to leverage Digital Key for the following capabilities:

  • Security and privacy equivalent to physical keys
  • Interoperability and user experience consistency across mobile devices and vehicles
  • Vehicle access, start, mobilization, and more
  • Owner pairing and key sharing with friends, with standard or custom entitlement profiles
  • Support for mobile devices in Battery Low Mode, where normal device operation is disabled
Tell us about your newly introduced ST25R3920 NFC reader ICs and what are the key features?

The ST25R3920 is an automotive-grade high-performance NFC universal device supporting NFC initiator, NFC target, NFC reader and NFC card emulation modes. Ideally fitting the CCC (car connectivity consortium) digital key specifications, the ST25R3920 satisfies the requirements for car access/start applications in areas like door handle or center console, and enables additional functionality, like pairing or NFC card protection combined with a Qi charger. Being very robust and noise tolerant while reducing electromagnetic emission, the device works even under harsh conditions, enabling an easier certification.

The device includes an advanced analog front end (AFE) and a highly integrated data framing system for ISO18092 passive and active initiator, ISO 18092 passive and active target, NFC-A/B (ISO14443A/B) reader including higher bit rates, NFC-F (FeliCa™) reader, NFC-V (ISO15693) reader up to 53 kbps, and NFC-A / NFC-F card emulation.

Special stream and transparent modes of the AFE and framing system can be used to implement other custom protocols in reader or card emulation modes.

Having pioneered NFC-access roll out in cars over the past years and currently supplying well-known US, European, and Asian automotive brands, ST is a leader in digital car-key technology and is now extending the state-of-the-art with the ST25R3920. Together with unique Dynamic Power Output (DPO) and Noise-Suppression Receiver (NSR) technologies, the new device increases RF output power and offers an enhanced input-circuit design for rapid car-key response and superior user convenience.

With DPO, the device operates at up to 1.6W continuous RF output power, to maintain reliable NFC connections over distance with a small antenna. ST’s NSR (noise suppression receiver) increases immunity to interference from noise sources and therefore simplifies electromagnetic immunity and eases certification. In addition, automatic antenna tuning compensates for changes in the RF environment to maintain the best possible connection to the user’s smartphone, and low-power key-signal detection with inductive wakeup minimizes load on the battery when the key is not being used.

Other than Car Digital Key, what are the other applications it targets?

Along with the vehicle access/start, ST25R3920 is used on the center console QI chargers for the NFC card protection and helps to detect foreign elements, to avoid any damage to the center console. Bluetooth pairing requires multiple user interactions to establish the first connection between the user and the car. NFC substitutes these multiple interactions with just one ‘tap and pair’ interaction. NFC can be utilized by the passengers to personalize their environment like setting of the air conditioner, infotainment settings (sound and display settings), lights, last destinations, etc. This personalization is not restricted to the driver but can also be used by the other passengers using the car.

ST25R3916 is the consumer version supporting NFC initiator, NFC target, NFC reader and NFC card emulation modes when applicable. Being fully compliant with EMVCo 3.0 analog and digital, this NFC IC is optimized for POS terminal applications, and enables the fastest EMVCo 3.0 certification cycles possible, even under harsh conditions, with antenna around noisy LCD displays.

Tell us about your NFC reader IC for automotive wireless charging?

ST25R3920 incorporates an advanced analog front end (AFE), featuring best-in-class receiver sensitivity, delivering foreign-object detection performance in WLC center consoles. Per the Qi standard, a foreign object detection function for detecting metallic objects is included. This prevents deformation or damage from occurring due to excessive heat generation in the event a metallic object is placed between the transmitter and receiver. This device includes ST’s proprietary Automatic Antenna Tuning function. It adapts to surrounding environment changes to minimize the effects from metallic objects near the reader antenna, such as keys or coins placed on the center console.

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