So we’re past CES 2011, and of the many mobile and tablet device announcements, none in particular has included any big announcements around NFC (near field communication) support. Wasn’t this supposed the be the year? Where are the goods?
Since the first time I saw NFC demo’d at a Nokia research center in Cambridge years ago, I was captivated by the potential it represented in all sorts of transactions. From offers, to payments, to location based check-ins, there’s loads of potential here with very little for the end-user to do to opt-in. No specific applications needed, no sign-ups, just tap and be on your way. When you think about it, it’s really the way things should be right? Even traditional media outlets such as Businessweek are starting to pick up on NFC so awareness is getting there.
And before you ask “what about QR codes” forget about it. Despite many publishers and marketers piloting QR code implementations, it’s clearly crashed and burned before it ever got off the runway with NFC coming. Think about the user experience of QR codes in this hypothetical scenario:
Customer see’s a QR code in a display or printed advertisement. Assuming that the customer both knows what it is and what to do next they pull out one of the many devices on the market, most which ship without software to read the codes. Ok, let’s assume the ad tells them the name of one of many campaign specific QR code readers out there and the customer is willing to search it out and install it. Several minutes later (if they’re patient and have a good connection), bam! They’ve successfully scanned the code to what must of been a pretty compelling and clearly articulated value proposition.
Now replace that whole experience with a simple tap of a NFC supported device. The customer sees the logo at the top of the post, knows what it is, and taps away. The customer doesn’t need to think to opt-in, and they can review or fulfill any of the thought process steps involved later at their convenience.
So is the year for NFC? It’s early and I think there is plenty on the horizon. But if anything, Google’s recently released Samsung Nexus S with built in NFC support should be an industry driver, just like the features that the Nexus One bore a year before (faster processing, more memory, etc..). NFC is an eventuality, it’s how soon it gets here is what remains to be seen.