NFC Today

This basic principle has now been taken and refined to the point where the amount of information that can be exchanged between NFC enabled devices is almost unlimited.

If you travel on buses, trains or underground regularly and you have a season ticket or, in London, an Oyster card you are using NFC. The scanner in the bus or train not only reads your ticket but deducts the charge for the journey, leaving the balance on the card.

Now, that interaction is possible in much more generalised situations rather than the single dedicated application like a season ticket. NFC scanners are increasingly being included in mobile phones enabling a variety of very simple, but valuable enhancements to how we go about our daily lives.

Making Payments on the Move

If there’s one thing we know how to do in the UK it’s how to stand in queues, but imagine if you never had to again, how much time would that save?

Instead of waiting in line to get into a concert or a football match, you just walk passed a scanner and an invisible transaction takes place between your phone, your bank and the venue or stadium. And for that beer and hot dog at half time, your phone preloaded with ‘cash’ for these small transactions that don’t require authorisation.

If you think how, even now, we microchip cats, dogs and horses for identification and security; there is no reason why we shouldn’t all be ‘tagged’ under the skin for age proof and paying for small items. That could avoid forgotten wallet syndrome!

Sounds a bit risky and insecure? Well again it comes down to how we define near; if we restrict the range to just a couple of centimetres that means we have actually got to wave our phone near the scanner, usually known as tapping; avoiding the risk of unintentionally buying things or being monitored in some way.

For the technically minded, NFC uses the 13.56 MHz radio frequency allowing for communication at no more than 5 centimetres separation between phone and NFC device.

Back to the Phone

The current focus is on exploiting the opportunities between the NFC technology and our smartphones, not only in making secure payments, but in marketing, product information, leisure and entertainment and launching applications on the net.

You might for example, see a poster in a window for a holiday destination that looks interesting; you wave your phone across the NFC Tag, it takes you to a video of the resort and gives you a guided tour of the hotel; you like what you see and tell it to buy; informed but impulsive – how life should be.

In theory there are few restrictions to what we could do with this technology. Applications are already available in education; for registration, assignment submission and location; in hospitals; for patient details, records and vital signs; in logistics; for tracking goods, vehicles, temperatures etc.; and this is just the beginning.

A huge opportunity exists in linking NFC with social media, using the phone to record ‘likes’ , so important in establishing digital word of mouth, and directly sharing information, such as menus or addresses, with contact groups.