Near Field Communication (NFC) is a feature of smartphones that allows it to communicate with other NFC enabled devices simply by touching them together or bringing them close together. Photos can be easily exchanged using this feature as well as mobile payments using a wallet app. While this may not be one of the most used features in a smartphone several research teams are about to change the way we use NFC.
Teams of researchers and students from Intel Labs, the University of Washington and the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed away for NFC to provide power to standalone electronic devices. They have paired a low power 2.7 inch E Ink display with an NFC enabled smartphone and were able to wirelessly transmit power as well as a couple of photos which could be viewed on the E Ink display.
This technology involves the use of inductive coupling to provide power to the display. A wireless power harvester chip is attached to the display which stores the energy from NFC transactions into the 1mAh battery. The stored energy is enough to power the E Ink display as well as to cycle between the different photos sent over by the smartphone.
One practical use of this technology is to use it as a secondary screen for a smartphone. It can be used to display information such as contact lists, shopping lists, and even maps without the user looking for the information on the power-hungry smartphone. Right now a total of 20 different images can be stored on the E Ink display using its 0.5 MB FRAM.
Alanson Sample, Principal Investigator for the NFC E-ink display at Intel, said that “There have been no special modifications to the E-ink display, so the image will last indefinitely. Transaction time can be traded for larger display size. The longer the user holds the phone to the NFC tag the larger the screen size can be. For practical reasons I would say that E-ink displays larger [than] 10 inches are not feasible. However, the real question becomes how long are users willing to wait to update the E-ink display?”