NFC: Has contact-less tech come of age?
Mobile Monday Manchester (Sept 12th 2011)
Yesterday I attended another session of the now regular Mobile Monday Manchester (or MoMoMcr). I am always surprised by the number of people turning up to such events, maybe because I am biased, thinking that nothing happened outside of London. But I am happy to be proved wrong, and it is amazing to see how many businesses in the Manchester area are involved, in one way or another, in anything related to mobile technologies, and more specifically in translating these technologies into specific smartphone apps.
The particular topic of this session was NFC (Near Field Communication), about which I wrote a previous blog entry (see this link). Here are some of the highlights from the panel’s presentations.
No need to introduce this company, I guess! For Google, the key equation is for mobile payment:
Consumer trends + connectivity – cost = mCommerce
Therefore, Google was here to mostly promote and explain the rationale behind Google Wallet, an all-in-one system allowing people to use their NFC-enabled Android mobile devices for such things as:
- Paying at shops
- Retrieving and using coupons
- Loyalty cards
The point of Google Wallet is to integrate these three features together, so a typical user can pay the right price at the till, without having to hand over any paper, or worry about loyalty cards being stamped, etc…
Google outlined benefits of NFC for financial institutions, retailers and mobile operators , but somehow managed to forget the important end-user… And this is where one of the problems might be: wide adoption of NFC will require education, especially when security issues are raised when it comes to handling banking data on a smartphone.
Google Wallet definitely need to make sure they communicate to (dare I say educate?) customers about their security in order to encourage wide adoption of NFC for mobile payments. More information about Google Wallet can be found on their dedicated website.
This Leeds-based digital agency (www.bolser.co.uk) has taken a different approach to bring NFC to the masses. In contrast to Google, they have found relatively inventive ways of allowing people to use NFC in a non-paying way, for instance by using NFC to check in on Foursquare through NFC coils in smart posters, or to create business cards.
This is an interesting take on NFC, making it more fun to use and less risky in terms of personal data loss as there is no need for a password or pin code and no user data are transferred.
To find out more about this, simply go to the dedicated NFC-hub website.
This was the operator’s view about NFC, and quite an interesting one it was. The most important point was that in order for NFC to become widely used and accepted, it requires a lot of stakeholders to bring the technology and infrastructure together.
A perfect example is Quick
Tap, that Orange (with Barclaycard) provides to its customers on NFC devices. It allows people to pay for small transactions by simply tapping their smartphone onto the NFC tag of a merchant. It is secured by a PIN code (like a debit card), easy to use, and is being adopted by more and more businesses, retailers, etc (about 60,000 so far in the UK).
Even though NFC technology is already enabled around us (Oyster cards in London, Barclays Visa Connect, transports cards around the UK and the World), in order to bring it to the smartphone (even low-tier mobiles phones) world, more secured devices need to be made available to the general public (i.e. at a reasonable price!).
Nokia has recently announced a few models with NFC technologies enabled (Nokia 700, Nokia 701 and Nokia 600), running Symbian Belle, one of the most secure OS in the mobile world. Prices are still quite high though, $420 for the Nokia 701, but lower than expected for the Nokia 600 ($260), paving the way for more low-tier smartphones with NFC capabilities below $200, which will encourage adoption. Nokia even vowed that all their coming smartphones will support NFC, which is an encouraging signal coming from the world’s biggest handset manufacturer. Nokia developers also maintain a blog about NFC, a highly recommended read!
Samsung and Android manufacturers are also planning relatively NFC good support on their next devices, although a lot of contradictory rumors make it difficult to keep track of the devices and their release dates… The most up-to-date source I’ve found is the NFC-world website.
So NFC is indeed coming of age, and although the pace of the growth is hard to determine at the moment, as we are a bit early in the game, there is definitely scope and room for inventive features using NFC to come to a handset near you.
We are currently involved in a specific NFC payment method, involving Android apps development in particular, and we will definitely be blogging about this at some point in the near future!