NFC is a technology that often captures the attention and ambitions of the technology sector, but puzzlingly enough one of the most promising applications for NFC — payments — is yet to come to fruition.
As reported by the Third Screen, this past week’s MIT Forum saw a bittersweet application of NFC technology. Dubbed the NFC Cluster Circle Boston, MIT’s NFC demo sold out its attendance for a technology that is yet to see widespread availability and deployment.
To illustrate the potential of NFC technology, MIT staffers distributed pieces of paper with embedded NFC tags, readable with NFC-enabled phones. Placing the phone over the paper transmitted the presenter’s slide show directly to the viewers’ phones.
This was certainly an inventive use for the technology that effectively worked like a charm. However, the problem with MIT’s demo was that only a dozen attendees acknowledged having NFC-enabled phones— a problem that is echoed by NFC technology as a whole.
Herein lies the problem that NFC currently faces, not enough consumers possess the technology. Part and parcel to this concern is what people will do with NFC once they do have it.
MIT’s discussion was mainly concerned with NFC technology’s payments applications and its use in mobile wallet functionality. This discussion, in turn, led to speculation over what NFC will need to achieve in order to be considered a success.
On the credit card company side of the issue, NFC is being monitored very closely with many companies simply waiting for more NFC handsets to hit the market, while other credit card companies are knee-deep in mobile payment experiments and pilots.
MasterCard, for example, has deployed more than 400,000 PayPass terminals to merchants that accept payments from a tap of an NFC-enabled phone. Initiatives like this aren’t trying to do away with the credit card so much as they are trying to redefine the payment experience.
Also important to the NFC payments landscape is the retailer’s perspective. The concern for retailers is not the type of mobile payment technology being used, but the consumer experience and benefit, namely ease of use and convenience.
Apple’s snub of the technology was mentioned, but was little more than an after thought in the discussion. MIT staffers made it clear in its panel discussion that NFC payments are a virtual certainty, and that when NFC realizes its full potential so too will mobile payments.
See the full Third Screen story here.