What is NFC and how is it used in the Casambi lighting control system?

Discover how NFC tech, known for its use in payments and travel cards, has made its way into the lighting industry, enabling innovative applications like programming LED drivers and wireless switches. In this blog post, Letícia Mori, Lighting Control Designer at Casambi, explains how NFC can be leveraged with the Casambi lighting control system. 

You may already be familiar with NFC technology, often using it for making payments with your smartphone or smartwatch or by tapping your travel card on a turnstile sensor. However, what you might not know is that this wireless communication technology has also found applications in the lighting industry. 

Near Field Communication (NFC) is a contactless communication technology based on existing radio-frequency identification (RFID) standards. It enables communication between two electronic devices within a range of up to 10cm. NFC operates on a radio frequency of 13.56 MHz and can transmit data at a rate of approximately 420 kbit/s. Its fundamental characteristics include wireless connectivity, short-range capability, and high-frequency operation. 

NFC employs inductive coupling between two adjacent loop antennas, generating an electromagnetic field that enables the bidirectional exchange of information. Due to the extremely short distances involved, this interaction is described as ‘near field’. 

Let’s take a short moment to understand how NFC works. 

Its attributes create a multitude of opportunities, and the lighting industry is also actively engaging in this significant enterprise. Nowadays, NFC is employed by manufacturers of LED luminaires to set the operating characteristics of LED drivers, including parameters such as operating current, type of dimming curve, constant lumen output and dimming levels. 

The NFC system is composed of a host PC where the parameters are programmed, an NFC reader (despite the name, it can both read from and write to an NFC tag) and an NFC tag embedded in a driver. The tag is a passive device and is activated by the energy contained within the signal emitted by the NFC reader. 

The figure below illustrates the NFC programming of drivers and the different types of NFC readers (handheld, desktop and wireless options). As an alternative to dedicated NFC readers, it is possible to perform NFC programming using a simple smartphone. Therefore, instead of the package consisting of a PC + software + NFC reader, it can be substituted by a smartphone with an appropriate NFC configuration app. 

This process can be accomplished on a manufacturing line without the need to apply mains voltage to the driver, reducing effort in the production line and ensuring the safety of workers from exposure to mains voltage. 

The Casambi ecosystem offers a variety of LED drivers that can be programmed using NFC technology. For the best-suited options, please refer to the Casambi Ecosystem page

Other Casambi Ready products that employ NFC technology are energy-harvesting wireless switches and sensors, creating the perfect trio for intelligent lighting control: Energy harvesting + NFC + Bluetooth Low Energy. 

For example, in the Casambi app, go to “Switches” and tap on “Add an EnOcean switch”. Position your smartphone close to the switch and when the NFC reader detects the switch, your device may buzz and the Switches page is opened in the app showing the switch. When you tap on the switch, a configuration page for it is opened and then you can configure the functionality: control individual luminaires, groups of luminaires, all luminaires in a network, elements, scenes and animations. 

Because of the flexibility, fast installation, and simplicity of pairing and configuring the battery-less Bluetooth Low Energy switches module with Near Field Communication has become increasingly widespread. Visit our Projects page to explore deployments of these switches in a wide range of projects, from small to large-scale. 

We are surrounded by technologies in this modern world, so why not combine them to enhance processes and simplify our lives? As a wireless lighting control system based on Bluetooth Low Energy, Casambi provides  ecosystem partners the technology and wireless expertise to invent and develop their own products by integrating them with other technologies such as the NFC. 

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