Meet the New Bluetooth

Carl Weinschenk
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Seven Sexy Smartphones

This latest batch of smartphones calls attention to glasses-free 3D technology, front- and rear-facing cameras and Snapdragon processors.

Near-field communications seems to be taking the route blazed by Bluetooth. Bluetooth, of course, is a potent communications platform that is resident on just about every cell phone that is sold. It is used by a good percentage, but not all, of the folks who own those phones. The strategy is simple: Integrate it, and they will come.


That seems to be the way that near-field communications is going. In-Stat released research this week that said that NFC shipments will exceed 1.2 billion by 2015. The driver of NFC is electronic wallets, which are a big play and top agenda item for some of the most powerful companies in the world. The two main players - Google Wallet and ISIS- are gearing up for a battle over who will predominate the next generation of the payment industry.


NFC, as the name implies, focuses on transferring data over short distances. Here is a good tutorial on how NFC works. Last month, ISIS announced that LG, HTC, RIM, Motorola Mobility, Samsung Mobile and Sony Ericsson are including ISIS's NFC system on phones. Indeed, the NFC train, literally, is leaving the station. Last week, Google Wallet and N.J. Transit said they will use the technology:

NJ Transit rail and bus customers can use Google Wallet to tap and pay to travel at New York Penn Station, Newark Airport Station, and on select bus routes. The service, which relies on NFC technology, also makes it easy for brands to implement rewards programs, discounts or coupons on merchandise, as well as smart posters in waiting areas or on trains. In the future, customers could have an option to pull out their phone, point to an icon on the poster and download information about products and services.

It should be noted, as ZDNet does, that NFC can be used for purposes other than mobile payments. Research In Motion is introducing BlackBerry Tag, which will use NFC to exchange social networking data with other BlackBerry users. The feature will come with BlackBerry OS 7 and is something of an interim enabler of NFC for mobile payments:

It's also smart of RIM to make use of NFC in another way besides mobile payments. Not only is the NFC structure not set up with merchants on the kind of widespread scale necessary before mobile payments becomes the norm, but now BlackBerry devices will be ready for them while making use of the technology at the same time.

The similarity between Bluetooth and NFC is partly technical. In the bigger picture, the thought is that enough people eventually will use the technology to make a ubiquitous deployment worthwhile.

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