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MediaTek: Hotknot vs. NFC Begins
Junko Yoshida
3/12/2014 08:15 AM EDT   14 comments

The end-game envisioned by every chip company working in China these days is to get China's dynamic Internet players -- such as Alibaba and Tencent -- on their side, talking them into pairing new services with the chipmakers' new technologies. As the services get popular, so will their chips, they believe.

Hotknot is no exception.

"But our first job is to build the infrastructure, making sure that millions of smartphones used in China will actually come with Hotknot," said MediaTek's Li.

Leveraging supply chain dominance
MediaTek's goal to make Hotknot a feature in most smartphones sold in China is neither far-fetched nor the Impossible Dream. MediaTek already owns more than a 40-percent market share of touch driver chips sold in China -- through Goodix, partly owned by MediaTek, and Mstar, acquired by MediaTek. Goodix last year had a 24 percent share and Mstar 18 percent.

However, the biggest player in the touch controller IC market in China is Taiwan-based FocalTech. The company held roughly a 40 percent share last year, according to Li. "We are currently in negotiation with FocalTech to adopt Hotknot," he said.

The beauty of MediaTek's HotKnot strategy is that MediaTek can simply leverage its dominance in the supply chain in smartphone chips and touch controller ICs.

MediaTek doesn't even need to ask rival smartphone apps-processor companies such as Qualcomm or Intel for their consent to adopt HotKnot. Hotknot will penetrate via touch-controller ICs.

Meanwhile, handset vendors can add Hotknot simply by buying advanced touch-controller chips with Hotknot, which will be a part of MediaTek's smartphone "turnkey" solutions.

Li said that every MediaTek customer -- China's handset suppliers such as Oppo or Lenovo -- will receive a Hotknot software package at the end of March.

MediaTek president C.J. Hsieh briefly talked about Hotknot in an interview with EE Times earlier this year during the International CES in Las Vegas, showing his clear enthusiasm for the technology.

But the company's efforts to promote Hotknot have been rather quiet thus far -- at least outside China.

Technical details of Hotknot's specs have not been disclosed. A MediaTek spokewoman confirmed this, saying, "As far as I know, we have not published any [Hotknot] technical papers."

— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times Circle me on Google+

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junko.yoshida
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Re: Hotknot vs NFC
junko.yoshida   3/15/2014 6:52:51 PM
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@Dvanditmars, thanks for the good on-the-ground observation. You point out good points. As we see a number of applications emerge, we may be facing the diverging near field standards...

junko.yoshida
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Re: Differences of Hotknot and NFC
junko.yoshida   3/15/2014 6:48:27 PM
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I agree, Jim. The potential of Hotknot as mobile payment is there, but yet to be proven. But I believe MTK has a great strategy to proliferate Hotknot as broad as possible first -- and use those handsets as a Trojan Horse to tackle the new mobile payment stuff.

DVanditmars
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Hotknot vs NFC
DVanditmars   3/15/2014 12:29:22 PM
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Hotknot works very well where you have two devices with power and capacitive touch screens.  However, once you start to include other devices, creditcards, stick-on tags, wrist-bands, etc... that do not have a capactive touch screen or power, then something like NFC works very well.

Yes Notknot and NFC can share the same application of transfering data between two smartphones.  Based on the smartphone data share application, we could ask Hotknot vs Bluetooth or Hotknot vs WiFi.  However, the technologie's applications start to diverge very quickly outside of the smartphone data share application.

The profit
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missing the mark
The profit   3/13/2014 8:27:48 PM
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NFC has a lot of potential but people get hung up on things like sending pictures.

NFC tags should be used to put your device in to a mode suitable to it's location, like send incoming calls to voicemail after you enter your car or re-route your calls to VOIP when you are at home and don't want to waste your voice minutes.

"Simple" tasks like that should be easy but it's hard just figuring out which NFC tags are compatible with your phone.  Maybe if NFC suppliers want to make it take off they should make sure handsets get bundled with a couple tags.

I could care less about sending tree pictures to another phone, I've got email for that.

The concept seems novel but if they don't make it do anything basicly useful it's just going to be one more thing in the online user's manual that never gets read.

Electronic payments might change the game but as above I would rather use proximity than touch.

JimMcGregor
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Re: Differences of Hotknot and NFC
JimMcGregor   3/13/2014 2:28:00 PM
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Junko, I see the potential security aspect of this as being a key differentiator, especially for electronic transaction. Then combined with the cost and design simplicity, Hotknow has potential. The determining factor is adoption by the financial services industry. Thus far, the industry has been heavily divided. If any of the big players see value and adopt Hotknot, it could displace many NFC applications.

chanj0
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Re: Differences of Hotknot and NFC
chanj0   3/12/2014 6:18:04 PM
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For various reasons, people may not prefer having their phone, which gets close to their face, is touching someone else.

By the way, does the google barcode already resolve the issue of unpopularity of NFC?

The success of eWallet is heavily relying on the security and consumer confidence to the technology.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Differences of Hotknot and NFC
junko.yoshida   3/12/2014 6:12:37 PM
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@tb100, I agree. The genius of Hotknot is in the business model. If MTK can leverage its strong presence in touch controller ICs (through Goodix and Mstar), they might be able to proliferate this thing a lot faster -- at least, initially in China.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Differences of Hotknot and NFC
junko.yoshida   3/12/2014 5:56:54 PM
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@chanj, really? Bluetooth Low Energy is also gunning for eWallet? That's fascinating...  Then what is all coming down to is the issue of secure elements and which technology gets there first...

junko.yoshida
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Re: Obvious application?
junko.yoshida   3/12/2014 5:53:44 PM
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@jackOfManyTrades, ha ha. Well put! I agree...

tb100
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Re: Differences of Hotknot and NFC
tb100   3/12/2014 3:23:09 PM
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I assume that the advantage is cost, since you can use the touch interface that is already built into the phone. Power should be less too.

I think you'd have to get a lot closer, though, and the data rate is a lot slower.

Still, if it is practically free to add this to a phone, maybe more phones will have it in the future. One of the problems with NFC is that not every phone has it (especially iPhones, which are a significant portion of the market). It is hard to get traction with a 'swipe to pay' NFC system unless lots of people have a device that can be used.

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