Not long ago, only a few had heard about NFC, or Near-field Com­mu­ni­ca­tions. But all of a sud­den, this tech­nol­ogy has be­come the new buzz­word in the mo­bile space. Ev­ery­one seems to be talk­ing about NFC, but not many even know what it means or what is it ca­pa­ble of do­ing.

Near Field Com­mu­ni­ca­tions is a promis­ing tech­nol­ogy that es­tab­lishes con­nec­tion be­tween two sim­i­larly en­abled de­vices over a ra­dio fre­quency, but only within a close range of less than 4 cm. In other words, NFC acts as an en­abler negat­ing the need for any pro­gram­ming to pair the de­vices with each other. In­stead, any two NFC en­abled phones or a phone and an Nfc-en­abled tag can pair by just tap­ping against each other.

The tech­nol­ogy has been around since 2004, but it is only re­cently that it has be­come avail­able on de­vices and hand­sets. All this while, some of the big­gest names tech­nol­ogy in the in­dus­try have been per­fect­ing the tech­nol­ogy. Now, it has be­come the next big thing in the mo­bile sec­tor with a wide range of ap­pli­ca­tions from from con­tent trans­fer to mo­bile pay­ments.

As the tech­nol­ogy op­er­ates in a very limited range, it is ideal for se­cure trans­ac­tions. NFC is al­ready be­ing put to use for low-value shop­ping trans­ac­tions in many coun­tries. If the ini­tial im­ple­men­ta­tion is suc­cess­ful, there could be a time when our mo­biles will also act as our dig­i­tal wal­let, let­ting us pay for any­thing from travel to food and movie tick­ets by just tap­ping the de­vice against a pro­grammed NFC tag. There is also wide scope for NFC in the health­care sec­tor as records of a pa­tient’s his­tory can be stored in an NFC tag which can be ac­cessed by med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als—again at a tap. Till then, how­ever, NFC is be­ing used for in­stant pair­ing of two de­vices for shar­ing small amounts of data (close to 100 kb) and for ini­ti­at­ing larger trans­fers of con­tacts, pho­tos, videos or even multi-player gam­ing via Blue­tooth.


NFC is now at a very nascent stage, es­pe­cially in In­dia, mostly due to the lack of an en­abled eco-sys­tem. Some coun­tries have al­ready grad­u­ated to this tech­nol­ogy, and is putting NFC to use for daily ac­tiv­i­ties. Pi­lot projects be­ing run around the world are ex­per­i­ment­ing with us­ing NFC for en­abling public trans­porta­tion and for con­tact­less pay­ment sys­tems.

Some­time back, the Clar­ion Ho­tel in Stock­holm ran a pi­lot project where the guests were given NFC- en­abled phones to check-in, en­ter their room and even check­out of the ho­tel. But this in­volved a lot of work at the back­end and the ho­tel had to work closely with the ac­cess con­trol com­pany, mo­bile net­work op­er­a­tor, room door key spe­cial­ists, etc. Guests sim­ply had to down­load the ap­pli­ca­tion and use it while step­ping into the ho­tel. The eight-month trial had fruit­ful re­sults, es­pe­cially by cut­ting the time for check-in at the re­cep­tion.

In San Fran­cisco, NFC is be­ing used to make park­ing me­ters smart. All 30,800 park­ing me­ters in city will soon have NFC stick­ers us­ing which driv­ers will be able to pay for a slot for a given time pe­riod us­ing their NF­Cen­abled phones.

An­other pi­lot project in Aus­tria em­pow­ered nearly 20,000 NFC phone sub­scribers to tap con­tact­less chip tags at some sta­tions of the Aus­trian Na­tional Rail­way and Vi­enna Metro. This au­to­mat­i­cally ini­ti­ated the mo­bile tick­et­ing ap­pli­ca­tion and filled in the needed in­for­ma­tion. Users used to con­firm and re­ceive the tick­ets via SMS or mo­bile In­ter­net. A sim­i­lar project in Ger­many’s Frank­fut al­lowed users to tap their NFC phones or scan 2D bar codes on posters in trains on some metro lines to ac­cess sched­ul­ing up­dates along with list of restau­rants that ac­cepted dis­count card pro­grammes.

Af­ter em­bed­ding NFC in its An­droid Gin­ger­bread, Google was keen to in­tro­duce its Mo­bile Wal­let, a pay­ment sys­tem that al­lowed users to store credit card de­tails, loy­alty cards, gifts cards and even pro­mo­tional codes on their phone. The data could be used to make se­cure and sim­ple pay­ment by tap­ping the phone

against any Paypass- en­abled check­out ter­mi­nal. Demon­strated in early 2011, the ap­pli­ca­tion has been made avail­able only for Sprint Nexus S 4G at the mo­ment. In the com­ing months, a lot of ter­mi­nals will be in­tro­duced across US. Google also plans to in­tro­duce Wal­let to non-nfc en­abled phones by at­tach­ing an NFC stick­ers as­so­ci­ated with just one credit card.


Even In­dia has had its share of NFC tri­als. A cou­ple of years ago, Citibank in­tro­duced a field trial with the Nokia 6212 Clas­sic phone in Ban­ga­lore. Called ‘Citi Tap and Pay’, Citibank Mastercard Credit card­hold­ers were given the op­tion of buy­ing the Nokia de­vice which would come pre­loaded with the ap­pli­ca­tion that al­lowed them to make pay­ments while re­ceiv­ing pro­mo­tional of­fers and dis­counts.

In Hy­der­abad, Me­ga­soft Ltd’s sub­sidiary XIUS an­nounced an agree­ment with Tata DOCOMO where the lat­ter would test XIUS’ Mo­bile Touch Trans­ac­tion (MTT) so­lu­tions to en­able sub­scribers to ex­e­cute any­time, any­where recharge, bill pay and down­load other VAS ser­vices.

In 2011, Nokia in­tro­duced Nfc-en­abled de­vices on the Sym­bian Belle plat­form and tied up with the movie to cre­ate a unique and en­gag­ing expe- ri­ence. The ‘Just Tap with NFC’ cam­paign al­lowed users to visit the near­est Nokia Pri­or­ity and tap their phones against the NFC tags to ac­cess free movie con­tent. Nokia has also in­tro­duced NFC en­abled ac­ces­sories to add value to its smart­phones.

And Nokia is not alone. Black­berry too has brought to In­dia a bunch of Nfc-en­abled phones. RIM is also work­ing on an Nfc-en­abled ap­pli­ca­tion named Black­berry Tag.

“NFC is gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity glob­ally as it can be used widely in en­ter­prise and con­sumer space. While NFC is al­ready been used in e-com­merce, so­cial net­work­ing and shar­ing data be­tween de­vices glob­ally, it is still in a nascent stage of adop­tion in In­dia. NFC as a tech­nol­ogy is great for con­sumers as well as en­ter­prises, but in a mar­ket like In­dia the big­gest chal­lenge is in­fra­struc­ture readi­ness for such tech­nol­ogy to be adopted at a large scale. Es­pe­cially, banks in In­dia are yet to be equipped with tech­nol­ogy fa­cil­i­ties that would help aug­ment e-com­merce us­ing NFC tech­nolo­gies,” says Ran­jan Moses, Car­rier Prod­uct man­ager of Re­search In Mo­tion.

There are some other is­sues too. For in­stance, at the mo­ment, one can­not pair a Nokia with a Black­berry phone over NFC. How­ever, NFC prom­ises to soon be­cause an ab­bre­vi­a­tion that will be in com­mon us­age along with USB and LED.

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