Near Field Communication – The World’s Gone Wireless

Posted by in Intriguing, Musings

Our state of technology has moved very aggressively towards a completely wireless world.  First there were wireless telephones.  Next came wireless Internet.  And now there even exist certain technologies that allow for wireless charging.  Yet despite how wonderful it is being completely cut from the cord, I believe Near Field Communication (NFC) has the most exciting potential because it takes wireless technology to a whole new realm.

NFC, as the name implies, is a developing technology based on close-range wireless communication.   NFC works on a similar premise to Bluetooth technology by establishing a localized connection between two devices.   Yet the advantage is plays over Bluetooth is that it doesn’t need to be paired between two devices, therefore any NFC ID tag can easily and quickly be recognized by an NFC reader.  It isn’t capable of sending/receiving as much data as bluetooth, since it only takes a tenth of a second to establish a connection, which will has been a major selling point amongst manufacturers.  It is this quality of NFC that makes this technology almost infinite in terms of applicable possibilities.

NFC also shares many similarities with Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID).  NFC is in fact a more specific derivative of RFID.  With NFC, both devices can communicate between each other, while some RFID tags can be “passive” and themselves are inactive until stimulated by a reader, and then they emit their unique ID code.  I wanted to bring up RFID because even though most people have never heard of it, RFID is already common place in many everyday items.  FasTrak, the device you place in your car that allows you to zoom through toll plazas on many freeways, uses RFID.  By creating a unique ID that is tied to your car and your bank account, you no longer have to waste hours waiting in traffic lines.  Many companies like Walmart and that ship massive quantities of inventory also use RFID.  By implementing RFID tags, they can now put hundreds of items on one palette and send them all at once through a scanner as opposed to individually scanning every item to track shipments.  The benefits of RFID really prove, both at the individual and industrial level, that “saving time is saving money.”

In my personal opinion, I am most excited about the potential of using NFC as a means of mobile payment.  Just as society has evolved from coins and cash to debit and credit, soon we will migrate to NFC dominated transactions.  Many people may not even know that many of their credit cards ALREADY use this technology, as indicated by a “wireless” symbol located on the front of the card.  Now to address any potential concerns before they arise, I know many people would fear the possibility that any theif could steal your money from just walking by in close proximity.  However, there are systems in place that prevent such things from occurring.  You are STILL required to enter another code/password to complete any transaction.  Just like debit cards, which require a pin number to approve a payment, this new NFC will require the same.

One company that has paved the way for NFC dominated payment is BlingNation.  They have distributed their “Bling Tags” amongst residents of Silicon Valley and given readers to local stores.  This tag comes as a sticker that can be placed on the back of a phone, and once you have successfully paired your unique card to your personal PayPal bank account, you are free to pay wirelessly at any Bling enabled store.  No Cash or Credit necessary! Although only a handful of stores exist to date, I believe they have successfully established a working model.

Even more exciting, cell phone companies have realized the potential of NFC, and have begun incorporating NFC technology directly into their phones.  Rumors are circling around that the iPhone 5 will have it, and google as already shown they plan to incorporate NFC technology, as indicated by their latest Android 2.3 OS.

Still, NFC isn’t limited to mobile payment.  Another useful application is as a form of personal identification.  Your unique NFC ID can be linked with your Driver’s License, or even your companies building access coding system, effectively making your phone the only thing needed to gain access the building.  And given that technology has evolved to the point that you can remotely find a lost phone, or even remotely wipe your phone of all it’s data, break of security is only a temporary inconvenience.  You will no longer have the worry like you did 20 years ago when you lost your ID card and/or master key, not to mention the comparing the overall cost!

Personally, I can’t wait for the day I no longer need a wallet.  To be able to have my phone, my music, the internet, video games, my “credit cards” and my identification all in one device, well that’s just my definition of heaven!  Integration and consolidation at it’s best…I can’t wait.