NFC: Beyond Mobile Payment and Peer-to-Peer

Ruth Greenberg
Monday, Dec 05, 2011 at 2:00 PM

There’s a buzz in the air around mobile technology. It’s three little letters: NFC. They stand for near field communication, which is something that’s got mobile giants, credit card companies and retailers all charged up (so to speak). You may have already heard that NFC is the next big thing in mobile payment and peer-to-peer interaction, but that’s just the beginning.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves because most people outside the tech world don’t know what NFC is or what it can do. If you fall into this category don’t worry. NFC is simple—that’s the point.

NFC is the wireless transfer of data between two devices that both contain NFC chips. It only works at a short-range (less than four inches) so it involves tapping your mobile device against a chip-embedded touch point or another cell phone. One of the most exciting things is that it’s two-way; you don’t just send information, you receive it too.

You might think NFC sounds like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and in some ways that's right, but unlike its forerunners NFC doesn’t need to be configured to pair with another device. Gone are the days of mandatory passwords and security codes. Instead it has a number of built-in security shields, like the short-range connection. In addition, because NFC is designed to transfer smaller amounts of data, it uses far less power. So you can keep it switched on all the time without it draining you phone’s battery.

So what can NFC do? The answer is, well, anything. Imagine a place where your mobile device is a key—where you can unlock your office, home or car with a single tap. This is the world of NFC. (You can check out the video below that demonstrates how an NFC-enabled car key can also be used to reserve a train or act as your hotel room key among other things.)

The potential application for NFC doesn’t stop there. You’ll also be able to log onto your computer, adjust your car seat and mirrors to your personalized settings and stream your favorite songs through your home speakers: all at the touch of a smartphone.

With greater simplicity come greater possibilities. Beyond using your smartphone for mobile payment it’ll become your mobile wallet. Think of all those other little pieces of plastic you keep tucked beside your credit card. NFC technology can replace every single one of them.

Not only will NFC transform your phone into anything from a train pass to a library card, it can also be a valid form of ID. In the future, even your driver’s license could be incorporated into your smartphone.

NFC can turn your smartphone into an airline ticket and a passport. When you arrive at the airport you’ll be able to use NFC to get information on your journey sent to your phone—whether you want to know the route to the departure lounge or a great place to grab a bite at your destination.

As for business applications, NFC could be applied to couponing, discounts and rewards programs. It can provide you with information about customer’s buying habits and give you the opportunity to advertise to them personally—direct to their mobile—as they shop.

Now you know why everyone’s talking about NFC as the next big technology to hit smartphones. Beyond mobile payment and peer-to-peer, the possibilities of NFC are endless.

What other ways can NFC make everyday activities easier? Let us know with your comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Recent Comments
  • Shev

    12/05/2011 , 4:37 PM
    Its interesting. This style of tech has being used in Japan for over 10 years.
  • MartyG

    12/14/2011 , 1:50 PM
    NFC by any other name is HID and likely could replace the HID industry.


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