The Odd but Serendipitous Introduction of NFC

Carl Weinschenk

The introduction of near-field communications to a mass audience will be unlike any rollout in telecommunications and IT history.

Generally, new technologies are introduced via a “killer app” that is widely promoted. Presuming that service gains adherents, subsequent new uses of the core technology generate new revenue streams. Broadband is an example of this: It initially was a means of providing traditional Web services more efficiently. The technology improved and it now delivers a variety of video and video-related services.

NFC will not follow this template. CIO’s Al Sacco makes two points. The first is that the applications most closely associated with NFC actually won’t come into play for a long time. The back-office issues associated with e-wallets — using a smartphone to complete purchases and perform other financial transactions — are monstrously complex. They don’t, however, have much to do with the core NFC technology. It will be a while before they all are sorted through and e-wallets become common.

However, the industry now is talking about NFC in terms of e-wallets. The initial applications will be far different and a bit less dramatic. This could be a great thing for NFC: The earlier group is filled with many small applications that are aimed at making life a bit easier. If, as a group, they catch on, NFC will be on the road to success. And that would be before the main application, e-wallets, even become a factor.

The second part of the article looks at what some of those pre-e-wallet uses are. Sacco looks at high-level groups, with some specific examples mentioned. He mentions NFC use in the enterprise, by government, in retail, in marketing and devices-to-device sharing and collaboration.

Samsung’s Galaxy S III is one of the first devices in which this broader implementation of NFC will be tested. The phone enables users to deploy reprogrammable TecTiles, which are sticker-like attachments that adhere to the phone. Each TecTile carries out a simple task, such as turning the phone’s alarm clock function on and off.

Michael Fisher at PocketNow expressed some disappointment with TecTiles. But it was the good kind of disappointment: TecTiles have a way to go before fulfilling their potential, but that potential exists. So his dissatisfaction is with the current status of TecTiles, not what they could bring. A perfect example of where TecTiles and NFC could go was included in a Forrester Research report quoted in the CIO story: A shopper with a child who has a nut allergy can use his/her camera to scan for such an ingredient on the label of food and send an alert via TecTile.

NFC and TecTiles have great potential. And, like with any technology that is gaining traction, it is inviting crackers. This story at ABC Action News describes a presentation at the Black Hat security conference last month in Las Vegas in which a former NSA analyst showed how a person’s phone could exploit an NFC vulnerability to gain control of a phone.



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