The NFC Solutions Summit in Burlingame, California — put on by a partnership of the Smart Card Alliance and NFC Forum— examined the future of NFC and the best use cases for the technology. Widely considered to be an ideal solution for mobile payments, the Summit posits that the most promising applications for NFC mobile may have nothing to do with payments at all.
By next year, NFC-enabled handsets with NFC technology are expected to hit the half-billion mark and industry experts at the NFC Solutions Summit agree that this figure demonstrates that the first step toward widespread NFC adoption has been met. With NFC technology now firmly planted in the consumer market, experts beg the question, what will be the best application of NFC?
While payments are a seemingly obvious answer, Sony’s Koichi Tagawa, and chairman of the NFC Forum says that applications like wine tracking and device pairing — apps that fill unmet needs and streamline activities — may prove to be the gold standard of NFC solutions. Citing solutions in his home country of Japan, Tagawa lauds Japanese airlines’ use of NFC to facilitate the boarding of a 450-person plane in just 15 minutes— a process that takes 40 minutes without the assistance of NFC.
In addition to convenience, experts at the Summit agree that loyalty programs and discount offers are great first steps in boosting consumer adoption and use of NFC technology.
As with any new technology there will be apprehension and a cautious approach to adoption, but Lynne Barton, Jamba Juice’s vice president of marketing, and a participant in the Isis Mobile Wallet pilots, believe that loyalty programs and couponing act as effective gateways for consumers to foray into the NFC market.
The general consensus is that whatever route NFC technology takes, the solution should be consumer-centric. “NFC should create, communicate and deliver value to customers,” says Mohamed Awad of Broadcom and vice chairman of the NFC Forum. “There are several use cases where organizations are communicating the value of products to customers by differentiating with NFC, including smart home appliances, interactive games, travel services, opt-in magazine ads, and even tombstones.”
The use of NFC goes beyond simple user convenience, however, boasting mobile security features that could renew user faith in conducting sensitive transaction using their mobile devices.
Security is, of course, a concern for any mobile interaction, monetary or otherwise and Sebastian Taveau, chief technology officer at Validity, cites specifically fingerprint biometrics as a means of providing consumers with a fast and secure method to unlocking NFC applications on mobile devices.
Building on the Summit’s security discussion is Siva Narendra, CEO of Tyfone, who unveiled the company’s new Connected Smart Card, which enables the secure storage and use of multiple ID credentials from a single microSD, key-chain, iPhone case or similar wearable device.
The two-day NFC Solutions Summit did not reach a consensus on a specific, market defining NFC app, but the experts do conclude that there is significant long-term potential for NFC— potential that reaches beyond just mobile payments.
The 2013 installment of the NFC Solutions Summit drew nearly 400 executives from a range of sectors including financial services, payments processing, retail services, technology providers, applications development and industry analysts. The forum held discussions on business issues, implementation milestones and technology advancements in the NFC market.