Near-Field Communications Surging

Carl Weinschenk

The biggest story in a relatively slow holiday and pre-holiday week is that BlackBerry’s quarterly results were better than expected.

There were positive and very positive data points. The positive was that the company – which reports on a fiscal year basis -- turned a profit. You don’t have to be an economist to know that that’s a good thing. But in this case it shouldn’t be met with uncontested glee because the reason was cost cutting, so the gains could be seen as a one-time event. The better news was that 1 million Z10s were sold, a number that exceeded expectations.

Applications based on near-field communications (NFC) are slowly but surely being included in mobile consumer devices. New phones increasingly carry the functionality and the mammoth payment card industry is pushing the electronic payment idea – which uses NFC – hard. This week, ABI Research released a study that said that more than 500 million NFC-enabled devices will be in the field next year. The firm’s view, which includes shipments of at least 285 million NFC-enabled devices this year, is summed up by a quote that was included in the press release:

“NFC has reached the point of no return,” commented John Devlin, practice director. “It all hinged on handsets; and next year we will see half-a-billion devices in the hands of consumers as it becomes more widely integrated. Up until this point banks and other service partners were holding back from committing to MNOs and it has always surprised me that they did not drive this forward themselves and invest to take charge of this market’s potential.”

Health care of course is one of the biggest drivers of mobility. It is an immense vertical in which mobility can help in an almost limitless number of ways. One of the biggest uses is the monitoring of people’s well-being. InformationWeek reported this week on a huge study by the University of California at San Francisco that will use mobility to track the health of as many as 1 million people. The story details the breadth of the study, which seems about as broad as the number of people involved.

Rarely is anything negative heard about use of mobile technology for health care. That makes sense, because there is very little downside. However, nothing is perfect: GigaOm reported this week that medical research evaluator Cochrane Library reviewed 16 trials encompassing almost 3,600 type 2 diabetes patients. The story outlined the partially shared parameters of the trials and Cochrane Library’s conclusion:

The study found that the digitally supported programs led to small positive effects on blood sugar levels, with the mobile-based interventions leading to slightly more improvement, but that those effects started decreasing after six months. It also found that there didn’t appear to be significant improvements on depression, blood pressure, weight or quality of life.

eWeek’s Don Reisinger offers a nice checklist of things to look for in a carrier. The story starts with the very accurate assessment that things are growing more complicated and the old binary choice – Verizon or AT&T – no longer applies. Much of the list is appropriate for consumers, businesses and, of course, folks employed in bring-your-own-device (BYOD) arrangements. Shoppers should consider available devices, coverage, carrier plans going forward, pricing, the underlying technology of the network and a number of other elements, the story says.

Datamation often does roundups of reactions to pieces of news. In this case, the interesting tidbit was a prediction from analyst Chetan Sharma that one-quarter of the patents granted this year will be related to mobile technology. Commentators quoted by Datamation focused on different elements of the study. Ina Fried from All Things D notes that the percentage is 10 percent in Europe. Ingrid Lunden from TechCrunch pointed out that 72 percent of the combined U.S. and European patents are held by the Americans. VentureBeat’s Ricardo Bilton noted that the number of patent applications overall increased 61 percent during the past decade.


And, finally, it seems that crackers are getting their feet – and the rest of their bodies -- wet. Newsfactor reports that three scuba divers were arrested in the Mediterranean Ocean trying to cut a Telecom Egypt cable. The arrest was made off the coast of Alexandria, according to the story, which quoted Egyptian Colonel Ahmed Mohammed Ali.



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