Friday, April 24, 2009

What is Near Field Communications?

Near Field Communication or NFC is a short-range high frequency wireless communication technology enabling the exchange of data between devices over about a 10 centimeter (around 4 inches) distance. NFC is primarily aimed at usage in mobile phones. The technology is a simple extension of the proximity-card standard. An NFC device can communicate with existing contactless smartcards and readers, and is thereby compatible with the contactless infrastructure already in use for security, public transportation, and payment.

Plenty of applications are possible, such as:

Mobile ticketing in public transport — an extension of the existing contactless infrastructure,
Mobile payment — the device acts as a debit/ credit payment card,
Smart poster — the mobile phone is used to read RFID tags on outdoor billboards in order to get info on the move.

Future applications could include:

Electronic ticketing — airline tickets, concert/event tickets, and others,
Electronic money -- stored on the card and used like cash,
Travel cards—parking, museum discounts, tourist passes,
Identity documents -- student IDs, recreation pass, dump sticker,
Mobile commerce -- ads, coupons, payments, gifts, loyalty programs,
Electronic keys — car keys, house/office keys, hotel room keys, etc.,
NFC can be used to configure and initiate other wireless network connections such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

The MIT Mobile Experience Lab recently issued a 45-page report on NFC and student life:

“We developed the following directions in which new innovative ways of using NFC with the mobile phone could be developed: Ubiquitous information, Health/Safety, Networking, eMoney, Smart Mobility, Entertainment, and Smart Objects. An example of ubiquitous information would be a virtual tour guide where the user could tap his/her phone on the tags as they toured a place, and thus consult the information pertaining to the site, as well as receive information about next items on the itinerary, where to eat/drink, and also the main commercial activities in the area. This system could easily be ported to libraries, museums, stores, etc. In regards to Health, a person could easily use NFC to record their workout data from exercise machines, as well as monitor their daily calorie consumption when ordering from smart menu boards. With this information, your phone could give timely diet suggestions, gym programs, and doctor alerts.”

The hot application for NFC, which some believe will be the killer app, is using the cell phone as a credit card. VISA and MasterCard have both recently announced a number of large-scale pilot implementations worldwide. Nokia has announced new NFC enabled phones. Blaze Mobile has announced the Blaze Mobile Wallet as an iPhone App, while also announcing a joint effort with MasterCard Worldwide to promote an NFC based mobile payment sticker that can be affixed to any cell phone, allowing “Tap & Go" purchases at any of the over 141,000 merchant locations currently accepting PayPass. To my surprise, there are already 20 PayPass locations in Portsmouth, NH, and 30 in Portland, ME. You can search for merchants in your own town here.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating! This technology could help blind people gain even more independence - no more awkward fumbling to get the credit card lined up in the slot the right way, no more fumbling with a pen (electronic or ink) to sign.