Executives from MasterCard, Sony, Intel and other payments and consumer tech leaders took the stage earlier this week at the Smart Card Alliance’s NFC Solutions Summit 2012 to declare that NFC is coming soon, and when it does, it will enable a broad array of applications that will enhance the consumer experience at the point-of-sale and in everyday interactions.
The journey to NFC is currently in the “middle stages” and NFC is “getting well along the way to mass market adoption,” said James Anderson, MasterCard’s senior vice president of Mobile and Emerging Payments. Addressing more than 400 Summit attendees, Anderson added that payments is just the tip of the iceberg for NFC, and that “payment can be an enabler to a rich ecosystem of services.”
According to Anderson, one of the ways to get consumers to use NFC technology is to put the technology “on the phones that people want to buy.” He named several new mobile devices that have been certified as PayPass Ready, a new mark that will identify to consumers that the handsets are capable of NFC payments.
Anderson also talked about MasterCard’s decision to bridge together a remote wallet service with its contactless product with PayPass Wallet Services, saying that the “PC channel and POS channel are merging,” and it is a “big stake in the ground to call this whole new world of payments ‘PayPass.'”
Peter Ho, product manager for Wells Fargo Card Services and Consumer Lending, agreed with Anderson that payments will enable more NFC services. He said that “this is the best time to be in the payments business” because payments will lead to an “offer engine” for consumers and ultimately, there will be convergence of NFC into the identity space.
Mobile payment is important, but the availability of an array of non-payment applications may be the key to wide consumer use of NFC, suggested Koichi Tagawa, chair of the NFC Forum and the general manager of Global Standards and Industry Relations Department at Sony.
Tagawa cited the example of Japan, which has used mobile payments phones for several years but doesn’t have the read/write or peer-to-peer capabilities that NFC offers. Although there are 70 million mobile payment-enabled devices in Japan, only 25% of the population uses the technology because of the lack of these non-payment applications, according to Tagawa.
Tagawa also said that ensuring a widespread consumer base for NFC technology will require “global interoperability of contactless specifications implemented into mobile devices.” He invited the audience to use the NFC Forum’s open, global set of specifications to develop as many applications as possible for hospitality, retail, physical access, social media, gaming, workforce audits and more.
Speaking on Intel’s recent efforts to enable NFC technology across its product lines, Carlos Aguirre, Intel’s wireless marketing product line manager, argued the case for NFC replacing Bluetooth.
“NFC is dramatically easier,” Aguirre said, adding that that NFC “could be the de facto standard in the future for how wireless devices pair,” including keyboards, mice, speakers, televisions, stereo systems, cameras, and much more. “Users are going to start to demand the simplicity of getting exactly what they want, when they want it, without all of the additional steps and without all of the additional accessories,” concluded Aguirre.
Mobile consultant Aditya Khurjekar urged the audience to look at NFC from the consumer point of view, and give them what they expect: new and more advanced mobile experiences. He encouraged the industry to get NFC on as many mobile devices as possible, especially in the “coolest phones,” and to “launch something already” so the consumers can experiment with the technology.
“You can’t have a grand equation for how consumers will behave – they will tell us,” Khurjekar said. In closing, he told the audience that they’ve barely seen the wide-ranging benefits of NFC yet. “We’re just getting started,” he promised.