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Cell Idea adds NFC to any Bluetooth phone

UPDATED Consumers can simply pair the company’s new ‘With Me’ device, expected to retail at US$25, with their existing Bluetooth phone in order to NFC-enable their handset.

WITH ME: Cell Idea's tiny device adds NFC to any Bluetooth-enabled handset
WITH ME: Cell Idea's tiny device adds NFC to any Bluetooth-enabled handset

Hong-Kong based Cell Idea has launched ‘With Me’, an NFC device that adds near field communication functionality to any Bluetooth-equipped mobile handset.

The device works by having the capability to both communicate with the phone using Bluetooth and communicate with any reader conforming to ISO 14443 Type A, Type B or FeliCa contactless communication standards for payments, loyalty applications, ticketing, access control and more.

Consumers equipped with a Bluetooth phone and a With Me could, therefore, conduct the same range of NFC functions that are possible with a handset with built-in NFC functionality.

With Me devices can operate in peer-to-peer mode, reader mode and card mode and, for security, the device incorporates a smart card chip which acts as the secure element in the system.

As well as the stand-alone unit pictured, With Me can also be supplied as a sticker or a strap and could be embedded into a phone’s protective cover or case.

Cell Idea, which has also developed the NFC microSD solution used in Fonelabs’ new low-cost NFC phones, has produced two demonstration videos, using a loyalty and e-wallet application developed by Toro, that give a clear idea of how the phone/NFC device combination works and illustrates the potential functionality:

COME WITH ME: A tour of of the With Me's functionality

DESKTOP DEMO: Another look at WithMe, this time from both ends of the system

Update: With Me should cost under US$25 per unit at retail, Cell Idea has told Near Field Communications World. The device is expected to go into production in May and some European pilot customers have already been lined up.

“Our Bluetooth-NFC device is today in the prototype stage; we do expect mass production in May, but are ready to go into trials before that,” says Cell Idea. “The price must be attractive for the end consumer, and we therefore expect the end user price to be less then US$25 in a real deployment.”

“We do currently have customers in Europe already that will be the first use cases,” the company added. “The use cases are really attractive and not in the standard NFC use cases like payment and ticketing, but something really new and exiting.”

NFCW also asked Cell Idea about With Me’s security. “Although we should always be concerned about security, our architecture is set up in such a way that we only do non-secure information exchange over the Bluetooth connection,” the company says.

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