Getting started


1. Install Python and required packages

Python is usually installed on Linux, otherwise can be downloaded at Windows users may grab an installer at Choose the latest 2.x version, nfcpy is not yet ready for Python 3.

With Python installed use pip to install the required additional packages:

$ pip install libusb1 pyserial

Windows users may have to use C:\Python27\Scripts\pip.exe.

3. Install libusb (usually just Windows)

The libusb library provides generic access to USB devices. Most Linux distributions seem to install it by default, otherwise should be available through the standard package installer (beware to not choose the old version 0.x).

Windows users will have a little work to (i) install the Microsoft WinUSB driver and (ii) place a copy of the libusb library into the system folder. Microsoft provides Instructions to install WinUSB but a much simpler approach is to use the Zadig Windows application (download and run zadig, select your device and choose the WinUSB driver for install). The libusb library for Windows can be downloaded from libusb (Downloads -> Latest Windows Binaries) as a 7z archive. Just unpack and copy libusb-1.0.dll from either the MS32\dll or MS64\dll into the C:\Windows\System32 directory.

2. Get nfcpy

To get the latest development version:

$ sudo apt-get install bzr
$ cd <somedir>
$ bzr branch lp:nfcpy trunk

This will download a branch of the nfcpy trunk repository from Canonical’s Launchpad source code hosting platform into the local directory <somedir>/trunk.

For Windows install, the easiest is to download the Bazaar standalone installer from and choose the Typical Installation that includes the Bazaar Explorer GUI Application. Start Bazaar Explorer, go to Get project source from elsewhere and create a local branch of lp:nfcpy into C:/src/nfcpy or some other directory of choice.

A release version can be branched from the appropriate series, for example the latest 0.9.x release.

$ bzr branch lp:nfcpy/0.9

Tarballs of release versions are available at

4. Run example

A couple of example programs come with nfcpy. To see if the installation succeeded and the reader is working head over to the nfcpy directory and run the tagtool example:

$ python examples/ show

Touch a compatible tag (NFC Forum Type 1-4) and the NDEF data should be printed. See for other options.


Things may not immediately work with contactless USB readers on Linux. The first problem is that the readers are by default only accessible by the root user and will not be found when nfcpy is run from an unpriviledged user account. A second problem can be that a kernel driver of the Linux NFC subsystem has been activated for the device and this prevents nfcpy from accessing it. And the same problem exists if the pcscd daemon is installed.

Since nfcpy version 0.10 the example programs are able to report the issues and hint the necessary actions. However, this will only be the case when program is called with a fully qualified –device argument. Thus a typical call sequence might be:

$ examples/ --device usb
[main] no contactless reader found on usb
[main] no contactless reader available
$ lsusb
Bus 003 Device 007: ID 054c:02e1 Sony Corp. FeliCa S330 [PaSoRi]
$ examples/ --device usb:054c:02e1
[main] access denied for device with path usb:054c:02e1
[main] first match for path usb:054c:02e1 is usb:003:014
[main] usb:003:014 is owned by root but you are stephen
[main] members of the root group may use usb:003:014
[main] you may want to add a udev rule to access this device
[main] sudo sh -c 'echo SUBSYSTEM==\"usb\", ACTION==\"add\", ATTRS{idVendor}==\"054c\", ATTRS{idProduct}==\"02e1\", GROUP=\"plugdev\" >> /etc/udev/rules.d/nfcdev.rules'

The last line shown above provides a command line to copy into the terminal which will add a udev rule to allow members of the ‘plugdev’ group to access the reader. The device must then be briefly unplugged to get the rule effective.

Open a reader

The main interface to start programming with nfcpy is provided by nfc.ContactlessFrontend. When initialized with a path argument it tries to locate and open a contacless reader connected at that location, which may be for example the first available reader on USB.

>>> import nfc
>>> clf = nfc.ContactlessFrontend('usb')
>>> print(clf)
Sony RC-S360/SH on usb:002:005

For more control of where a reader may befound specifiy further details of the path string, for example usb:002:005 to open the same reader as above, or usb:002 to open the first available reader on USB bus number 2 (same numbers as shown by lsusb). The other way to specify a USB reader is by vendor and product ID, like usb:054c:02e1 will open the same reader as before if there’s only one of them plugged in.

>>> import nfc
>>> clf = nfc.ContactlessFrontend('usb:054c')
>>> print(clf)
Sony RC-S360/SH on usb:002:005

If you don’t have an NFC reader at hand or just want to test your application logic a driver that carries NFC frames across a UDP/IP link might come handy.

>>> import nfc
>>> clf = nfc.ContactlessFrontend('udp')
>>> print(clf)
Linux IP-Stack on udp:localhost:54321

Just for completeness, you can also omit the path argument and later open a reader using clf.connect(). This returns just False when no reader was found instead of raising an exception.

Read and write tags

With a reader opened the next step to get an NFC communication running is to use the clf.connect() method. We’ll start with connecting to a tag (a contactless card), which should not be a Mifare Classic. Supported are NFC Forum Type 1, 2, 3 and 4 Tags.

>>> import nfc
>>> clf = nfc.ContactlessFrontend('usb')
>>> clf.connect(rdwr={}) # now touch a tag and remove it

With the call to clf.connect() the tag got discovered, activated and it’s NDEF data read and then, for as long as it has not been moved away, the tag presence was continously verified. The return value tells that there was an activation and termination was as expected and not for any exceptional case like a Ctrl-C keyboard interrupt.

The rdwr argument is a dictionary that may carry further options to control clf.connect(). From a set of callback functions we may choose on-connect to be alerted when the tag is activated.

>>> def connected(tag): print(tag); return False
>>> clf = nfc.ContactlessFrontend('usb')
>>> clf.connect(rdwr={'on-connect': connected}) # now touch a tag
Type3Tag IDm=01010501b00ac30b PMm=03014b024f4993ff SYS=12fc
<nfc.tag.tt3.Type3Tag object at 0x7f9e8302bfd0>

This simple callback function print some basic information about the tag, here it is an NFC Forum Type 3 Tag with system code 12FCh. This time the clf.connect() call returned immediately after the touch with an nfc.tag.tt3.Type3Tag object. This is because the callback did return False to request that the presence loop not be run. With the tag object returned we can check if there is an NDEF Message stored on the tag.

>>> print(tag.ndef.message.pretty() if tag.ndef else "Sorry, no NDEF")
record 1
  type   = 'urn:nfc:wkt:Sp'
  name   = ''
  data   = '\xd1\x01\nU\'

The logic is simple. If the tag.ndef attribute not None then the tag.ndef.message attribute will be a nfc.ndef.Message object we can easily print with pretty(). This prints the list of records in the message, which happens to be just one.

>>> record_1 = tag.ndef.message[0]
>>> print(record_1.pretty())
type = 'urn:nfc:wkt:Sp'
name = ''
data = '\xd1\x01\nU\'

The type attribute tells that this nfc.ndef.Record is an NFC Forum Well-Known Smartposter type record. The nfc.ndef package has a record class for this.

>>> import nfc.ndef
>>> smartposter = nfc.ndef.SmartPosterRecord(record_1)
>>> print(smartposter.pretty())
resource =
action   = default

So far we have only read from the tag, now it’s time to write. For an NDEF message this is pretty easy and shown by adding a smartposter title.

>>> smartposter.title = "Python module for near field communication"
>>> tag.ndef.message = nfc.ndef.Message(sp)
>>> print(nfc.ndef.SmartPosterRecord(tag.ndef.message[0]).pretty())
resource  =
title[en] = Python module for near field communication
action    = default

The new message was immediately written to the tag with the assignment to tag.ndef.message. The next line then caused the NDEF message to be read back from the tag and converts it into a SmartPoster object for pretty print.

>>> clf.close()


The nfc.ndef package has a lot more than could be covered in this short introduction, feel free to read the API documentation as well as the NFC Data Exchange Format tutorial to learn how nfcpy maps the concepts of the NDEF specification. And the nfc.tag package provides more information on the methods that are available for formatting, protecting, authenticating and exchanging raw commands with tags.

Emulate a card

It is possible to let nfcpy emulate a tag (card). This is simply requested with a card argument to clf.connect().

>>> import nfc
>>> clf = nfc.ContactlessFrontend('usb')
>>> clf.connect(card={})

Seems not so simple returned immediately with a None result. The reason is just that there exists no sensible default behavior that could be applied when working as a tag, there needs to be more information about what kind of tag we want to emulate (apologies for the bad coding style but this gives fewer lines to copy).

>>> sensf_res = bytearray.fromhex('01 03FEFFE011223344 01E0000000FFFF00 12FC')
>>> def on_startup(target):
...     target.brty = "212F"; target.sensf_res = sensf_res; return target
>>> clf.connect(card={'on-startup': on_startup}) # touch a reader


A TagEmulation class still only exists for Type 3 Tags although since version 0.10 it is possible to run nfcpy in target mode for Type 2 and Type 4A Tags with selected devices. It is also now possible to use PN532, PN533 and RC-S956 basesd devices in addition to RC-S380 for Type 3 Tag emulation, but except for RC-S380 the command and response frames can only be up to 64 byte.

A nice tool to read the tag we’ve just created is the excellent NXP Tag Info app available in the Android app store. It should report that our tag is a FeliCa Plug RC-S926 (because sensf_res[9:11] is 01E0) and show the 8 byte IDm, 8 byte PMm and 2 byte System Code in the TECH view. The NXP Tag Info app should also report that there is no NDEF partition on the tag, so this is gonna be fixed next.

>>> attr = nfc.tag.tt3.NdefAttributeData()
>>> attr.version, attr.nbr, attr.nbw = '1.0', 12, 8
>>> attr.capacity, attr.writeable = 1024, True
>>> ndef_data_area = str(attr) + bytearray(attr.capacity)
>>> def ndef_read(block_number, rb, re):
...     if block_number < len(ndef_data_area) / 16:
...         first, last = block_number*16, (block_number+1)*16
...         block_data = ndef_data_area[first:last]
...         return block_data
>>> def ndef_write(block_number, block_data, wb, we):
...     global ndef_data_area
...     if block_number < len(ndef_data_area) / 16:
...         first, last = block_number*16, (block_number+1)*16
...         ndef_data_area[first:last] = block_data
...         return True
>>> def on_connect(tag):
...     tag.add_service(0x0009, ndef_read, ndef_write)
...     tag.add_service(0x000B, ndef_read, lambda: False)
...     return True
>>> card_options = {'on_startup': on_startup, 'on-connect': on_connect}
>>> while clf.connect(card=card_options): pass

This is now a fully functional NFC Forum Type 3 Tag. With something like the NXP Tag Writer, NDEF data can now be stored into the ndef_data_area and read back. The loop can be terminated with a keyboard interrupt Ctrl-C.

>>> clf.close()

Work with a peer

The best part of NFC comes when the limitations of a single master controlling a humble servant are overcome. This is achieved by the NFC Forum Logical Link Control Protocol (LLCP), which allows multiplexed communications between two NFC Forum Devices with either peer able to send protocol data units at any time and no restriction to a single application run in one direction.

An LLCP link between two NFC devices is requested with the llcp argument to clf.connect().

>>> import nfc
>>> clf = ContactlessFrontend('usb')
>>> clf.connect(llcp={}) # now touch a phone

When the first example got LLCP running there is actually just symmetry packets exchanged back and forth until the link is broken. We have to use callback functions to add some useful stuff.

>>> def on_connect(llc):
...     print llc; return True
>>> clf.connect(llcp={'on-connect': connected})
LLC: Local(MIU=128, LTO=100ms) Remote(MIU=1024, LTO=500ms)

The on_connect function receives a single argument llc, which is the LogicalLinkController instance coordinates aal data exchange with the remote peer. With this we can add client applications but they must be run in a separate execution context to have on_connect return fast. Only after on_connect returns, the llc can start running the symmetry loop (the LLCP heartbeat) with the remote peer and generally receive and dispatch protocol and service data units.

When using the interactive interpreter it is less convinient to program in the callback functions so we will start a thread in the callback to execute the* loop and return with False. This tells clf.connect() to return immediately with the llc instance).

>>> import threading
>>> def on_connect(llc):
...     threading.Thread(; return False
>>> llc = clf.connect(llcp={'on-connect': on_connect})
>>> print llc
LLC: Local(MIU=128, LTO=100ms) Remote(MIU=1024, LTO=500ms)

Application code is not supposed to work directly with the llc object but use it to create Socket objects for the actual communication. Two types of regular sockets can be created with either nfc.llcp.LOGICAL_DATA_LINK for a connection-less socket or nfc.llcp.DATA_LINK_CONNECTION for a connection-mode socket. A connection-less socket does not guarantee that application data is delivered to the remote application (although nfcpy makes sure that it’s been delivered to the remote device). A connection-mode socket cares about reliability, unless the other implementation is buggy data you send is guaranteed to make it to the receiving application - error-free and in order.

What can be done with an Android phone as the peer device is for example to send to its default SNEP Server. SNEP is the NFC Forum Simple NDEF Exchange Protocol and a default SNEP Server is built into Android under the name of Android Beam. SNEP messages are exchanged over an LLCP data link connection so we create a connection mode socket, connect to the server with the service name known from the NFC Forum Assigned Numbers Register and then send a SNEP PUT request with a web link to open.

>>> socket = nfc.llcp.Socket(llc, nfc.llcp.DATA_LINK_CONNECTION)
>>> socket.connect('urn:nfc:sn:snep')
>>> msg = nfc.ndef.Message(nfc.ndef.UriRecord(""))
>>> socket.send("\x10\x02\x00\x00\x00" + chr(len(str(msg))) + str(msg))
>>> socket.recv()
>>> socket.close()

The phone should now have opened the web page.

The code can be simplified by using the SnepClient from the nfc.snep package.

>>> import nfc.snep
>>> snep = nfc.snep.SnepClient(llc)
>>> snep.put(nfc.ndef.Message(nfc.ndef.UriRecord("")))

The put() method is smart enough to temporarily connect to for sending. There are also methods to open and close the connection explicitely and maybe use a different service name.


The Logical Link Control Protocol tutorial has more information on LLCP in general and how its used with nfcpy. The nfc.llcp package documentation contains describes all the API classes and methods that are available.