The near-field communication chip maker Inside Contactless is expected to announce today that it is making an open source version of its programming interface available to other developers.
The Aix-en-Provence, France, company said the move would make it easier for third-party vendors to create applications for NFC technology, and in turn could spur demand for its NFC chips.
NFC is the technology used in contactless credit and debit cards now, and many payments companies are pushing the idea of adding NFC capabilities to mobile phones, which could be used to make purchases using card account data stored on the handsets.
"We believe that this is removing a block" among makers of consumer electronics, said Loic Hamon, the vice president of marketing for Inside's NFC division.
Some device makers are interested in NFC, but so far they have been reluctant to commit to a single technical format, Hamon said. Inside Contactless said the open source version of the software needed to use its chips will allow application designers to create programs that adhere to a single format.
Not only will this make the device makers less skittish, it could also lead to a proliferation of NFC applications, Hamon said. "The reason we are doing this is definitely to accelerate market adoption of NFC," he said.
It could also pique interest in NFC payments, Hamon said.
A number of financial companies have been talking about the idea for years, and many of them have completed tests of the technology, but to date there has been little progress in bringing mobile phone payments applications to market.
"We think things are progressing" for NFC payments applications, "but maybe not at the speed we want to see," Hamon said.
Hamon also said there has been strong interest in using NFC to create "smart posters," featuring NFC tags that could be accessed by mobile phones. For example, museum visitors could use their phones to download information about a painting.
"Today, companies are waiting until there is huge demand for NFC from consumers before they decide what hardware to use," Hamon said. "This is solving part of the chicken-and-egg situation."