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The ABCs of NFC (Near Field Communication)

The ABCs of NFC (Near Field Communication)

Have you heard about Near Field Communication (NFC)? If you haven't yet, you probably will soon. NFC devices, such as your phone or tablet, can exchange information with each other with a simple tap or wave. Here are a few examples:

  • Contactless Payment - NFC is being used in devices for contactless payment such as "Tap to Pay" w/ MasterCard's PayPass, VISA's payWave, PayPal's Bump, and Google Wallet. Your device can replace all of your credit, loyalty, and gift cards, making payments and reward redemption quicker and more convenient.
  • NFC P2P - You can use NFC's P2P (peer-to-peer) mode to effortlessly transfer info (such as images, contacts, audio, etc.) between two devices.
  • Airlines - Some airlines have started to use NFC for boarding passes, security gates, and booking, making boarding quicker and easier.
  • Hotels - BMW partnered with a leading hotel key card company to allow travelers to download their room key to a NFC-enabled BMW key fob.
  • Shopping - Much like barcode scanning you will be able to compare groceries, clothes, and electronics with access to reviews, product information, and prices but NFC makes it faster. This is especially beneficial since there's no need for the camera, unlike barcode scanning.
  • Healthcare - To keep track of patients, their previous treatments, and their prescribed medications, hospitals are incorporating near field communication technology into their medical technology systems. By carrying a smartphone or other device with them, nurses can track how long they spent with a patient and what medications or treatments they administered simply by swiping the phone over an NFC reader designed to record that information and transfer it into the system. This prevents lost paperwork or inaccurate time records.

The challenge to marketers is to imagine the possibilities of this new technology. For example, imagine using an NFC card to exchange business cards. No fears about running out of cards at a trade show or losing the information from someone else's card. Just transfer the information seamlessly from your phone to the other person's.

Or you might attach an NFC tag to a point of sale display and instant directional information or daily specials.

I have been using NFC to automate tasks on my phone when I get to the office, my vehicle, and at home. I use NFC tags that my phone detects and changes the settings on my phone. For example, when I get in the office I lay my phone on my desk where the NFC tag is and it will turn on WiFi and check-in to Foursquare. When I get into my vehicle a tag on my phone dock turns on Bluetooth and turns off WiFi. There are lots of options for configuring to your needs.

Device Adoption

As of 2013 it's supported that 285 million devices, with projections of ~800 million devices in 2015. With 9 of the top 10 handset makers with nfc-enabled devices. Android, Windows, and Blackberry support the technology. There is a rumor that the iPhone 6 will be NFC-enabled.

It shows that a lot of companies have invested into the technology and it's growing at a rapid pace with a lot of opportunities for use. Usage in the U.S. market has been slower than Europe and Asia but there but definitely has a promising future. NFC tags will slowly grow to a point where you will just instinctively use your phone to grab available information. We’re already seeing companies using it instead of printing on paper, as well as movie posters that will link you directly to the trailer or the app. NFC can also be used as a key to unlock the door to your house, or to pay for your next junk food run. These use cases aren’t quite as widespread yet, but over the next few years the technology will continue to find new homes and new applications.

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