NFC MAKES A POWERFUL PROMISE -TO PROVIDE SIMPLE AND SAFE TWO-WAY INTERACTIONS AMONG ELECTRONIC DEVICES. BUT WHAT’S IN IT FOR OPERATORS AND BUSINESSES?
Near Field Communication (NFC) is one of the newest wireless networking technologies. A short-range wireless connectivity technology, NFC provides intuitive, simple, and safe communication between electronic devices. Communication occurs when two NFC-compatible devices are brought within four centimeters of one another (some users “wave” the handheld device close to another, while some people actually allow them to touch, though it is unnecessary to do so).
NFC operates at 13.56 MHz and transfers data at up to 424 Kbits/second. Because the transmission range is so short, NFC-enabled transactions are inherently secure. NFC is distinguished by its intuitive interface and its ability to enable largely proprietary wireless networking platforms to interoperate in a seamless manner. Trials of this exciting new technology have successfully illustrated how people carrying mobile phones or smart cards with built-in NFC can make purchases, get directions, exchange information, and buy transportation simply by bringing them close to NFC-enabled devices embedded in information kiosks, retail registers, advertising signs, vending machines, and thousands of other devices, systems and signage. End users of this technology benefit from comprehensive specifications developed by the NFC Forum, designed to make NFC devices interoperable. Members develop products that enable consumers to pay for physical goods, enter controlled environments such as arenas, and access digital services anywhere, at any time, using any NFC-Forum-compliant device.
Transit systems in Europe and a number of Asian countries already use NFC-compatible contactless technologies to speed travelers through to their destinations.
NFC-enabled devices can be a great source of new revenue for business. They surround the user with advertisements and offer valuable information, making it easy to acquire and consume rich media content. Here lies one of NFC’s major advantages as a marketing tool: The consumer initiates the contact by bringing an NFC-enabled mobile phone to an NFC tag, effectively self-qualifying for the product or service being offered. NFC will fuel the market for advanced personal electronic devices capable of purchasing, playing, storing, and sharing media. Mobile content providers earn revenue when users choose value added services.
Bringing NFC into the consumer market will help drive acceptance of contactless transactions, whether for purchases or to obtain and share information in the course of a normal day. Building on the technology represented by millions of installed contactless devices, NFC-enabled products hold the promise of carrying out contactless transactions by any mobile device holder. The intuitive simplicity of holding a mobile phone or a smart card close to a terminal to purchase products or services, instead of swiping or handing over a credit card, reflects NFC’s potential to bring about the next major change in the way the average buyer pays for things. NFC technology will displace cash purchases to an even greater extent than is possible with traditional plastic credit card purchases, because it represents an even faster, more convenient payment medium.
Stuart Carlaw, Principal Analyst, Wireless Connectivity at ABI Research, predicts the high potential of NFC-enabled business opportunities. “By 2011, approaching 500 million cellular handsets will incorporate NFC capabilities that will be used not only for payments at points of sale and remotely, but also to access information from ‘smart objects.’“
Access to transportation/contactless purchasing Transportation is the initial leading use of NFC technology. Contactless tickets have already begun to revolutionize the speed and ease with which all consumers can use public transport and access controlled environments like parking garages. Users praise NFC transactions for their speed, security, and flexibility. But NFC will have a powerful impact in many more areas of our daily lives. With NFCenabled mobile phones, you can buy tickets, receive them electronically “over the air,” and then go through fast track turnstiles while others wait. Later, you can check your balance or update your tickets remotely. Paying for meals at a restaurant won’t require you to surrender a credit card, but simply to wave your NFC-enabled phone near an NFC-enabled fixed or hand-held reader to complete the transaction. NFC tags can be placed nearly anywhere: inside on product packaging, cash registers and point-of-sale equipment, or outdoors on parking meters, newspaper dispensers, offices, houses, garage doors, at bus stops, or ATMs. The possibilities are as wide as the imagination.
Information on the move/service discovery Finding and gathering information is easy to do with NFC, whether by bringing a phone to a point on an indoor retail display to obtain an electronic coupon or by holding it up to a poster to download the latest ring tone from one’s favorite musical group.
Travelers will find it easier to get around in an NFC-enabled world. Tourists from France can use an NFCequipped tourism kiosk in Singapore to get information in French on their phone’s display screen. Visitors to an unfamiliar location can bring their phones close to a street-side signboard outside a museum to find about the latest exhibition inside, translated conveniently into several languages.
Simplified wireless communications
Whether you are holding two phones together to exchange electronic business card information or photos, or bringing two laptop computers together to initiate a high-speed file transfer, NFC offers several ways to speed and simplify data exchange transactions between consumer electronics products.
Other Wireless Platforms
Beyond the phenomenal success of the mobile phone, NFC technology will speed the adoption of other mobile communications technologies or protocols, such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and ZigBee, beyond the most technically progressive users. NFC’s simplicity and security are accelerating wireless technology platform adoption by making each easier to use. Using Bluetooth as an example, a businessperson can visit a client and leave behind a MS PowerPoint presentation. Even if the presenter’s computer and the target computer are Bluetoothenabled, it would still be necessary to manually set up the link between the two systems, using a password to secure the transfer. But if both Bluetooth systems have NFC chips built in, a Bluetooth peerto-peer connection can be established simply by bringing the distinctive NFC “hot spot,” or target mark, of the first computer to the corresponding NFC target mark of the second. Meanwhile, USB wireless support for NFC is under active consideration by the USB Implementers Forum to allow instant associations between wireless USB devices.
And recently, the Wi-Fi Alliance embraced NFC, voting to use NFC as a solution for automated out-of-band pairings of Wi-Fi devices.
Near Field Communication technology evolved from a combination of contactless identification and interconnection technologies. In June 2006, the NFC Forum took a significant step to enable manufacturers and applications developers to create powerful new consumer-driven products when it unveiled its NFC technology architecture and announced the first five Forum-approved. These specifications are:
NFC Data Exchange Format (NDEF)
NFC Record Type Definition (RTD)
NFC Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) Service Record Type Description
NFC Text Record Type Description
NFC Smart Poster Record
Type Description Forum officials also announced the four initial tag formats — based on ISO 14443 Type A and 14443 Type B standards (ISO 14443 is a four-part international standard for contactless smart cards operating at
13.56 MHz in close proximity with a reader antenna), and on ISO 18092 — that NFC Forum-compliant devices must support.
(Stats and info from NFC Forum)
Strategy Analytics forecasts mobile phone based contactless payments will facilitate over $36 billion of worldwide consumer spending by 2011
ABI Research predicts by 2011, nearly 500 million cellular handsets will incorporate NFC capabilities
Specifications providing common formats for data sharing between NFC-enabled devices and between devices and tags: NFC Data Exchange Format (NDEF) -Specifies a compact, common data format for NFC Forum devices and NFC Forum tags. NFC Record Type Definition (RTD) -Specifies standard record types used in messages between NFC Forum devices and between NFC Forum devices and tags Allows the use of internet-standard media types