NFC on the World Stage

7/12/2012

Just when we thought NFC (near-field communication) couldn’t receive any more hype, some really cool new applications prove the technology has myriad uses, even beyond the mobile wallet. The acronym has generated a great deal of buzz around the M2M (machine-to-machine) and connected-devices industry, and thanks to new, innovative ideas being implemented around the world, the technology is becoming more widely recognized, accepted, and desired.

According to Theresa Billy, president and founder of Near Field Connects, this “tap technology” is being investigated by everyone from marketers to product developers, and even executives. “(NFC) is an exciting, innovative technology that, when combined with mobile and cloud technologies, offers a new layer of disruption that provides an array of possibilities for real and unforeseen change across numerous activities, industries, and ecosystems,” writes Billy in the July/Aug issue of Connected World magazine.

Launching last week, a new “virtual library” is now open for business in Klagenfurt, Austria using NFC and QR (quick-response) codes to connect citizens with free ebooks via their connected device. According to “Projekt Ingeborg,” Klagenfurt is the only major European city that does not have a public library. To remedy this, the creators have placed 70 yellow stickers with embedded NFC chips and printed QR codes in public spaces such as bus stops. Klagenfurt citizens can use their NFC-equipped device to access a library of free, downloadable content. Devices without NFC capability can download content by scanning the QR codes. Initially, the virtual library will consist of 70 literary classics.


Austria is not the only country trying out interesting applications of RF (radio frequency) technology. In Belgium, an amusement park called Walibi has launched Walibi Connect, which relies on RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology of which NFC is a subset. RFID-chip-embedded bracelets are given to park guests who preregister online. Once in the park, guests can “scan” their bracelets at Walibi Connect “totems” placed near eight attractions, automatically “liking” the attraction on the guest’s Facebook page.

Of course, what NFC is most known for is still the mobile wallet. In fact, we know at least a third (37%) of U.S. mobile phone owners find the mobile wallet concept appealing, according to Parks Associates, www.parksassociates.com; and this percentage has likely grown since the survey was conducted a few months ago.

The 2012 Summer Olympic Games, which begin later this month in London, will serve as yet another springboard for NFC, this time in the form of the mobile wallet. A partnership announced this spring between Visa, www.visa.com, and Samsung Electronics, www.samsung.com, will produce NFC-enabled Samsung GALAXY S III devices equipped with Visa payWave, the company’s mobile-payment application. The limited-edition devices will be available to Samsung and Visa-sponsored athletes, allowing them make purchases at more than 140,000 contactless terminals around the U.K., with a simple wave of the device.

These types of innovative, engaging, and high-visibility efforts to put NFC into the hands of the general public will likely be key to the technology’s growth in the coming year or so. Whether this growth occurs in the retail space, the enterprise realm, or other environment, NFC’s potential is not only vast, it’s exciting.



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