2011 was to be the year of NFC and, while it did make some strides, we still aren’t anywhere near the world some envisioned at the end of 2010.
What is NFC and why is it important
NFC, short for near field communications, is a “set of standards for smartphones and similar devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity, usually no more than a few centimetres.” Uses for this technology are innumerable simply by the nature of the technology – provided it becomes adopted and pervasive.
The importance of NFC cannot be measured yet because it simply hasn’t had its day. The future impact could be. By the end of the year only a handful of smartphones carry NFC with many more lined up for 2012. Apple hasn’t announced (nor denied) the inclusion of NFC in their next iPhone (high speculation that they will) and Microsoft recently announced NFC support “sometime in 2012.” RIM, Nokia and Samsung have a few devices already supporting it with more coming.
There are numerous trials going on around the world with the majority in the mobile payment space. A few countries are experimenting with loyalty programs, public transportation, hotel keys, smart posters, social networking, and even employee payments.
The primary focus of NFC reporting and theorizing seems to be on mobile payments – it has found itself in the centre of the mobile wallet discussion for better or worse. NFC has become synonymous with payments and may prove to be the reason it isn’t immediately adopted for other, more relevant and real solutions.
The Road Ahead
2012 is still not going to be the year of NFC although we will see many more NFC-enabled devices shipped. This is going to be a make or break year for this technology as adoption is going to be key. It won’t matter that devices are ready if there aren’t any services that users are interested in using the technology for. In order for NFC to jump into mainstream use it needs to simplify a function that is already too cumbersome. Unfortunately payments, while cool, will not be the reason we all start using NFC.