NFC could well be one of 2012’s most crucial additions to mobile technology, according to this week’s Intel Developer Blog entry.
Near Field Communications (NFC) is potentially one of this year’s most significant additions to mobile technology. From payments to LinkedIn to gathering information about the latest exhibition at the Museum of London, NFC is adding more and more to the way we use our mobile devices.
Although by no means new, 2012 seems to be the year that devices are becoming advanced enough to make best use of what it has to offer. NFC technology allows smartphones and other mobile devices to communicate with one another by touching them together or placing them in close proximity to one another, which opens the way for a variety of very useful functionality.
On first hearing about the incorporation of NFC into mobile, I wondered whether it was different enough from Bluetooth to warrant its own space. Whilst the two technologies are very similar in that they both offer short-range communications, NFC uses less power and doesn’t require pairing unlike Bluetooth. The only disadvantage is that NFC is slightly slower than Bluetooth, a problem that hopefully won’t linger too long.
Communication is possible between an NFC device and an unpowered NFC chip, this is known as a ‘tag.’ Depending on what device you have you may have noticed that it randomly picks up tags from time to time, which show you are near another NFC-enabled device.
There is a lot of buzz around NFC at the moment, and the number of enabled devices is growing. According to analyst house Juniper one in five smartphones will be NFC-enabled in the next two years, meaning there will be 300 million NFC-enabled smartphones globally by 2014. Here’s an overview of some of the most exciting uses for NFC at the moment:
• Social media: Sharing photos, contact details, videos and other files becomes remarkably easy between friends and colleagues. At the Droidcon event in London for example I was using NFC instead of business cards and to exchange LinkedIn details.
• Data-gathering: Users can make use of public tags to gather relevant information. The Museum of London for example offers information to visitors through its NFC tag system. The system provides users with information on exhibitions, layouts, memberships and various other upcoming offers.
• Mobile gaming: The potential to integrate NFC into gaming is massive, and could potentially be used to integrate games into real life. For example integrating map data you’ve collected into a game scenario, unlocking achievements, or integrating player stats into football games. The list goes on.
• Contactless payment: Consumers can now pay for purchases by tapping their phones on a merchant terminal, meaning mobile phones could soon be used to replace your credit, debit and loyalty cards, Google Wallet for example. Similarly VISA is now getting ready to roll out its NFC-based system for Android, and Barclaycard has recently announced its version – PayTag.
• Transport: In London the Oyster cards system has been hugely successful, as have the Elephant card in Hong Kong, and numerous other touch-in / touch-out systems around the world. NFC-enabled smartphones would allow users to top-up and touch-in / touch-out with their mobiles.
As the points above illustrate, NFC has huge potential to improve mobile technology. The new Toshiba Satellite U925T is the first example of an NFC-enabled Ultrabook, as outlined at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) 2012. It allows users to pay for goods online using a MasterCard PayPass-compatible card. Here’s a useful blog that looks into how Point of Sale payment works in more detail.
As mobile technology improves NFC is going to play a bigger part in the everyday functionality of the devices we use. The only questions is – what’s in store next?
Have you had the chance to test out any NFC-enabled devices yet?
This blog post is written by Softtalkblog, and is sponsored by the Intel Developer Zone, which helps you to develop, market and sell software and apps for prominent platforms and emerging technologies powered by Intel Architecture.