Yes, we know—you’ve been hearing this song, sung to the tune of “Near Field Communications,” almost since the standard was initiated in December 2003. But this year, we promise, NFC is coming to the U.S.
How do we know? The Nokia C7, the Google Nexus S, the Samsung Galaxy S2, and any future phones running Android 2.3.3 will have NFC capabilities, and Google will be conducting mobile payment trials in New York and San Francisco. Cool.
Responding to a recent question about putting NFC in BlackBerrys, RIM’s co-CEO Jim Balsillie said, “We’d be fools not to have it in the near future—and we’re not stupid.” As of press time, RIM had confirmed that it will be integrating NFC into most BlackBerry devices going forward, and the company is trialing mobile payments with Bank of America.
Then you have James Anderson, vice president of mobile product development for MasterCard and an NFC Forum board member, saying they’re ready to jump on board: Priceless.
Considering that NFC technology has been “just around the corner” for so long, we assume you know all about it. If not…
Near Field Communications is an open standard contactless chip technology that enables two-way communication related to RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) in the 13.56 MHz frequency range, designed to replace magnetic strips. When two NFC devices are within a few centimeters of each other, they can talk and perform a wide range of predefined tasks. Many credit cards use NFC to pay at the 265,000 PayPass merchant terminals in the world—half of which are in the U.S.
There are multiple NFC usage scenarios. For instance, you’ll be able to use an NFC phone to check yourself into a hotel via a terminal at the check-in counter, use it as a room key, check yourself out, and pay for the stay. NFC phones can also replace subway cards or tokens on mass transit.
But NFC’s most common purpose will be as a digital wallet. Your phone could store all your credit and loyalty cards along with information on numerous accounts for both where you keep your money and where you spend it.
What’s the hold up? MasterCard’s Anderson was surprised at how long it took for NFC to come to handsets, but mostly the holdup has been due to banks and other institutions. NFC creates new processes and a new business model for many businesses, and a host of security issues. But Visa and MasterCard have been conducting NFC pilot programs around the world. In fact, both companies have been conducting European trials with an iPhone 4 and an iCarte NFC dongle from Wireless Dynamics.
Yes, this is the year for NFC.