A short while ago Joe Worrall wrote a great blog article about NFC (Near Field Communication) technology in 2012 which got me thinking. At the minute whenever talks about NFC, the conversation seems to be restricted to using the technology as a mobile payment platform. However, the potential for NFC is much larger than this – so here are our top 12 ideas how NFC can be used:
We might as well start with the most obvious choice – payment systems. NFC is already being used across the planet for facilitating the digital payment process. In South Korea for example the technology is embedded into the country’s train network – passengers simply swipe their phone through the barrier (much like an Oyster card on the London Tube) and their ticket is paid for. Furthermore, NFC allows customers to order their meals in restaurants in advance so all they need to do is swipe their phone to pay and collect their meal straight away. Another interesting idea might be peer-2-peer transactions, so if you owe your friend some cash, you can send it across instantly. Alternatively, if a group need to split a bill, they might be able to do so using NFC.
2. Digital ‘Pickups’
Anyone who has walked through London will be familiar with the multitude of street vendors handing out free newspapers or flyers, they are not everyone’s cup of tea but they can make for good reading material when sat on the Tube. NFC could be used by ‘passer bys’ to pick up digital content like newspapers, flyer’s, brochures – even books. Swiping your phone quickly over a mobile terminal could be new way to collect and consume data – we are a nation of curious impulse buyers after all
NFC is already being used as form of identification – particularly for office blocks where employees can get through locked doors with a simple swipe over the security terminal, but why stop there? Potentially, will we start to see more serious forms of identification such as Passports and Driving Licences embedded digitally into our smartphones? Or is this a step too far for our own security/privacy concerns?
Anyone who has ever been to generic business networking event will know that you’ll tend to leave with a chunk of business cards that most likely you’ll lose in the wash or chuck away. NFC presents an interesting opportunity for us to share out ‘digital business cards’ without the waste. Furthermore, NFC data means that we can share as much information as we want – name, phone, Twitter account, Facebook, LinkedIn, email, website, rate card, business bio – even your CV!
5. Sharing data
Bluetooth revolutionised the way we share data over mobile in the 90s, and as 3G connectivity has improved we continue to share photos, music, videos digitally. However, this often comes at a cost in terms of bandwidth. Mobile operators in recent times have been quick to recognise that we share data and have put paid-for data limits into our contracts. NFC would allow us to share data in a more direct manner without these additional costs.
6. Environmental control
Imagine walking into your home and your house reacts to your most desired settings – your lights set at your favourite brightness, the room temperature drops/rises to your preference (or even intelligently to the weather outside), your PC/TV begin to boot in advance, your music system subtly kicks in over the speakers and your home recognises where your nearest phone is when it rings. This is pretty much the same system that Bill Gates’ Seattle home has but with an earlier piece of technology. With sensors positioned around your home, NFC could be an ideal way to make your environment as comfortable as possible.
We’ve already talked about NFC during travel, and we’ve just talked about environmental control – what happens when you combine the two? Anyone who has ever shared a car with a family member will know of mild annoyance of having to reset your chair, mirrors and steering wheel position. Upon entry to your car, your NFC phone could interact with your car and begin to adjust these elements to your preferred setting – saving you time and effort!
8. Aiding the visually impaired
An excellent concept that is already in development is using NFC to help aid the visually impaired scan and find objects. In this video, a blind man uses his phone to scan over items in the shopping aisle, his cupboard and record collection to find the item he wants. This technology is probably a bit further away as it requires tagging each item, but would be incredibly useful for items that are all the same shape and size.
Have you ever had your photo taken, looked at it and wanted a copy? Well NFC chips in cameras could interact with smartphones so users can immediately share their photos. Furthermore, users could activate their Facebook details so that the photo will instantly tag them from the camera – but this might be quite a scary concept if you’ve had a few drinks on a night out!
10. Targeted advertising
Think of the scene in Minority Report where Tom Cruise wanders through a shopping mall and the digital advertising boards respond to his presence with targeted ads asking how he’s enjoying his last purchase and informing him of customised special offers. NFC could make this kind of shopping experience a very real possibility. If we use NFC as a payment platform, it will also capture data about what like to buy, watch, talk about, listen to. Combine that with what your friends recommend on Social Media channels, and you would have a very powerful advertising tactic.
NFC has the potential to be a massive part of the way charities fund-raise – especially for impulse donations on the street, at the counter or at major events. The simplicity and security of transactions would make giving money to a charity or a cause effortless. Furthermore, NFC tags could be integrated into offline advertising like posters or displays, so if users like the message they can donate there and then.
12. Location data
Museums, galleries, stadiums, historical sites – anywhere where you can get an audio tour – could see NFC replace the traditional headset. Smartphones could become an instrument for tourism in which users could get their information via audio, text, video or even augmented reality. Imagine going to the museum and looking at a piece of history – to then get a choice of learning more than what’s on the placard, or even purchase a replica for yourself. This technology doesn’t need to be restricted to just buildings but could be used city or nation wide as part of a tourism campaign.