Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to attend the Smartcard Alliance‘s NFC Solutions Summit with a few Racepoint clients. For those who don’t recognize the acronym, NFC stands for near field communication, 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 an inch or so. NFC’s most frequently referenced in terms of mobile payments, but it was interesting to hear of other use cases that may turn out to be more practical in the long run.
A speaker from the wireless team at Marvell Technology Group (a Racepoint client) quoted analyst forecasts that NFC connectivity – nearly nonexistent a few years ago – will be included in 30-40 percent of all mobile phones by 2016. It was interesting to hear that NFC wouldn’t necessarily replace similar technologies such as Bluetooth, which is projected to be included in nearly 100 percent of all mobile phones in the same time frame, but would be an additional connection that would ease many frustrations faced by average consumers.
Even for the tech-savvy among us, managing a home network can be a challenge, with PINs, passwords, SSIDs and the like. With NFC, things can get much simpler. Imagine the following use cases:
- Digital home entertainment: Imagine being able to share content on your phone or tablet on your big screen TV without cables and connectors – simply place your phone in proximity to the set press a connection link and boom – videos of your kid’s soccer game can be viewed as if they were on ESPN Sports Central. The same technology could be used to pair 3D glasses or universal remote controls, surround sound systems and more.
- Content sharing: Want to share photos from Saturday’s party with your friends? No need to upload to Facebook or email simply “bump” your phone next to theirs and you can seamlessly transfer anything.
- Home office: Imagine just laying your laptop or smartphone on your desk and instantly connecting them to a full keyboard and monitor. That’s possible with NFC. Wireless printing also is a key use case for NFC – no more uploading photos to your PC, simply place your camera near your printer and voila!
- Employee access: Our building issues smartcards to everyone who works here, which gives us elevator access to the floor we work on. For me, this usually requires balancing my phone and my Starbucks while digging through my purse for the card. NFC already enables this on the smartcard – putting this on my phone would make it that much easier to get to the office every morning.
Consensus from those I spoke with at the show was that it’s still early days for NFC, but the technology is there waiting for manufacturers to incorporate into the next generation of consumer electronics.
A little bit about me: My smartphone runs my life – from keeping track of my work email and making sure the kids are on time for their next soccer game to managing my grocery lists and keeping tabs on current events (like the Giants game). My dream app? The AP Stylebook for Android.