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Philips, Sony team for new wireless tech

The two consumer-electronics giants say they plan to work together on a new wireless technology that promises to allow devices to "talk" to each other at close range.

Philips Electronics and Sony announced Thursday that they plan to work together on new wireless technology that will allow consumer devices to "talk" to each other.

The consumer-electronics giants have agreed to jointly create a radio frequency technology, called "Near Field Communication" (NFC), as well as jointly manufacture consumer devices that will use it.

NFC will allow data to be transferred over a wireless spectrum at 13.56MHz. Devices such as mobile phones, digital cameras, handhelds or personal computers will be able to "talk" within a range of 20 centimeters and at speeds of up to 212kbps.

Gadgets using the new wireless technology will be compatible with Philips' Mifare and Sony's Felica smart card technologies, the companies said, allowing consumers to buy items with their devices. Smart cards, often as small as a credit card, contain a microprocessor and a certain amount of memory to hold identification or financial information.

"Think of it as a smart card technology in a device allowing consumers to transfer data and pay for services," Sony spokesman Greg Dvorken said. NFC devices can be expected in early 2004, the companies said.

NFC is similar to Bluetooth, another wireless technology that enables devices to communicate within short ranges. But the Sony and Philips technology is meant to coexist with other wireless networking schemes, Philips spokesman Karsten Ottenberg said. One characteristic that sets NFC apart is that it needs no "permission" before making a connection between devices, he said. Bluetooth, on the other hand, pings a device to see if it wants to connect before going through with the coupling.

"NFC will be a device-to-device communications technology where two devices will communicate with each other when they come within range," Ottenberg said.

Sony has made a number of product announcements surrounding its ongoing networked broadband initiative. On Wednesday, the company unveiled the first of its "Cocoon" line of products, meant to provide an alternative to the PC for tapping the Internet. This month, Sony will host its own tradeshow, called Dream World 2002, where it will demonstrate a range of products.

Philips and Sony have a history of working to create technologies and build markets where they can sell products. For example, their joint efforts resulted in the CD.