walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Mobile Commerce, NFC edition

Al Sacco at CIO has a long piece about how Near Field Communications (use your mobile device to pay for crap) could be used for more than, er, just paying for crap mobile-y. Here are some of his examples, apparently from Forrester Research (people pay for this stuff. Maybe it's better in the for-pay version):

Instead of your keycard, student ID, or timeclock punchcard, you could check in and check out of access controlled and/or want to know you are there places with your NFC enabled device. This is a fair set of examples: no obvious payment involved.

Instead of your bus card, city swimming pool pass, parking lot access, library card: these are all grouped together as the government using NFC. This is not a fair set of examples for two reasons. (1) Some of them are payments (and the headline is not just for payments), notably everything but the library card. Parking is a wash; maybe local residents wouldn't have to pay but non-locals would? (2) Government is usually an area that has to serve a really wide range of people and NFC is not accessible to a wide range of people and probably won't be fore a while.

Also, "And city residents could get access to public facilities, such as swimming pools or libraries, with a tap of a tablet.", who brings a tablet to a swimming pool? Don't answer that. I don't want to know. I've seen people texting on iphones while sitting on the edge of the kiddie pool. Just seems like a bad idea.

Using NFC to give tourists access to guidebook-y info seems more or less like using QR codes for the same purpose. *shrug*

Third example: go to a store, tap a product tag, phone now knows stuff about you and product and can tell you nut allergic person not to buy this product. I wouldn't trust it. They have trouble getting the label on the product right; there's no way they are going to keep the NFC tag up to date.

Fourth example: because you'll find NFC more compelling if you think it'll let you shove more ads at people. *shudder*

Fifth example: what I am here for. The Palm Pilot and other devices had an IR port that let you beam applications, db records and similar back and forth. It was the shit. It was probably the best thing about those devices and I've missed it the whole time I've had an iPhone. NFC would reproduce it, but for much more data intense stuff, like pictures, documents, etc. And the much bigger apps of the iOS world. Zynga is apparently already using this for multi-player poker on some android devices. Way cool.

Example six is mostly just more of the same: universities could use it for access/payments! It could be your boarding pass! Your concert ticket! I'm not sure how I feel about a car key that can book hotels. Is it cheating on me?

"In the auto industry, BMW has built an NFC-enabled car key that can not only unlock an automobile, but also eventually help you book and access hotels room while you're traveling."

Really, NFC is what it seems to be. Beam crap back and forth, a la a Palm Device in the days of yore; an instead-of-a-credit-card and an instead-of-some-access-device. That's it. There is no magic here, unless you consider advertising magical. Alas, like e-commerce, this requires a whole lot of highly available, highly reliable, highly consistent back end systems to make it work. And that's hard.

ETA: Almost forgot.

Here's something about NFC tag tech getting cheaper:


I'd like to point this bit out: "harness the power given off by a smartphone’s radio waves and send information back to it via printed digital circuits."

and then point this out, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio-frequency_identification:

"Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is the use of a wireless non-contact system that uses radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data from a tag attached to an object, for the purposes of automatic identification and tracking. Some tags require no battery and are powered by the electromagnetic fields used to read them."

So if someone is trying to convince you there is magic in NFC tags, tell yourself, Self, it's just RFID tags, only smaller, cheaper, holds more.

While I'm here, notice this in the wikipedia article:

"Wal-Mart and the United States Department of Defense have published requirements that their vendors place RFID tags on all shipments to improve supply chain management. Due to the size of these two organizations, their RFID mandates impact thousands of companies worldwide. The deadlines have been extended several times because many vendors face significant difficulties implementing RFID systems. In practice, the successful read rates currently run only 80%, due to radio wave attenuation caused by the products and packaging."

Just because San Francisco has parking meters with NFC doesn't mean we should expect significant life impact from this stuff in the near future. Unless, that is, you're in inventory management.
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