Until now, reading NFC tags at the workstation has usually required additional hardware. In conjunction with a Windows computer, an NFC reader/writer is required, which must be connected to the computer via USB. Only SmartCard readers have been available for some time. SmartCards are digital business cards that contain protected identities for access. However, the possible applications of such SmartCards are manageable due to their limited functions. New hardware manufacturers are now increasingly integrating the NFC function into everyday hardware. The NFC functions make NFC cards or NFC chips much more versatile and easier to write and read by oneself. Contact data, texts, URLs, codes and many other types of data can be stored on an NFC card (instructions for: iOS, Android, Windows). NFC cards can also be protected so that overwriting is not possible.

The hardware manufacturer Cherry has now developed one of the first keyboards that enables both SmartCards and NFC cards to be read.

This article introduces this hardware and gives an outlook on further possible applications.

NFC-Keyboard from Cherry – Cherry Secure Board 1.0

The Cherry Secure Board 1.0 is one of the first keyboards that has an integrated NFC reader/writer in addition to a SmartCard reader. Up to now, NFC technology has been used in hardware components more to establish a wireless connection, similar to the Bluetooth function. The keyboard is connected to the computer via USB and is compatible with Windows and MacOS. The card slot is located on the upper side of the keyboard. The card can be inserted or placed in front of the reader. The keyboard allows reading and writing of ISO 7816 and ISO 14443 A/B compliant cards (protocols: T=0, T=1, T=CL), supporting all common NFC chips & NFC cards.

Therefore an additional external NFC reader/writer is not necessary. NFC cards (or NFC chips) can be read and written comfortably via the keyboard. However, an NFC writer software is still required that recognizes the keyboard as an NFC writer/reader.

SmartCards at the worlplace

SmartCards store encrypted access data to systems, identities and other authentications. They can also contain access and log-in data for operating systems. This makes them versatile digital keys. Such SmartCards are usually personalized and managed by a database so that access rights can be configured centrally. With a built-in RFID antenna, the data exchange can also be contactless.

SmartCards can store large amounts of data and even execute programs. Due to high security and protection measures, they are ideally suited for handling sensitive data. In most cases, the data is protected by a personal PIN code.  

SmartCards can also be used for Windows authentication of a Windows server in a Windows domain. If not already configured, a certificate authority (CA) must be created. This manual (german tutorial) explains further necessary steps. The way to create a SmartCard as a log-in for a Windows server is quite complicated and requires basic Windows knowledge. At the end of the creation process, a PIN can be assigned to protect the authentication with the SmartCard from strangers. This PIN can then be entered on the Cherry Secure Board 1.0 keyboard, for example.

For smart cards, Windows supports a vendor architecture for secure authentication that is extensible to include user-defined credential providers.  

Use NFC at work with NFC keyboard

NFC tags can be used to exchange and store information. Common data types are text, phone number / contacts, URLs, shortcuts, but also addresses, texts and positions. NFC chips can be read and written easily. An NFC-capable smartphone is required for this (iOS / Android).

Where a Windows system requires an external NFC reader/writer, the Cherry Secure Board 1.0 with integrated NFC function now comes into play. This allows NFC cards to be read and written even faster and more efficiently. In conjunction with special software, product details can be displayed directly and inventory solutions can be implemented. Recurring data and text entries could replace the contact with an NFC card. Testing of NFC encodings is also possible with the integrated NFC function without additional hardware.

In combination with our intelligent NFC-based business card, the data can be loaded directly onto the Windows system. In addition to contact data, the NFC card can also contain text templates, for example, which can be loaded directly into an open document or text field during scanning. Here we explain how this works with our NFC21-Tools software.

Conclusion NFC Keyboard

It is becoming apparent that more and more hardware manufacturers are recognizing the benefits of NFC technology and integrating it into new hardware products. As a result, more and more standard devices will be able to interact with NFC tags in the future, replacing external NFC reader/writers. The manifold benefits of NFC will thus become more and more part of everyday working life in order to master it more efficiently. We are excited to see which other hardware products with integrated NFC functions will appear in the future.

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Erstellt: 2020-10-27 / Aktualisiert: 2020-11-02 2020-10-27 2020-11-02