A Big Year for NFC

When we think of important developments in mobile technology, there is something happening out there that is going to have a big impact on how we live and how we think of money.

Near Field Communication, or NFC is being field tested in some cities by business giants like Google.  Google has been focusing on NFC for some time and is working with large and some small retailers to provide a new way to pay at the cashier.  Last year they introduced the Google Wallet, which allows you to make payments with your phone, and we know other companies are paying more attention to it as well.

What is NFC? Essentially, it’s technology that allows radio communication between mobile devices, or devices and a reader, by touching them or bringing them in close proximity to each other. Data can also be exchanged through an NFC device and an unpowered chip called a tag.

While NFC resembles technologies such as Bluetooth and WiFi in some ways, those tools tend to be geared more toward tech-savvy users. Also, while NFC sets up faster than Bluetooth and automatically establishes a connection quickly, it transfers data slower than Bluetooth and has a shorter range.

Vensi anticipates NFC will become ubiquitous and will be adopted by the mass market beginning with purchases, so that people no longer need to carry their credit cards with them; they can keep their phone handy and use that to make payments. We see a lot of other options for it, too, including facilitating exchanges of information. For example, let’s say you run across someone and want to trade business cards. You will be able to bring your phones together to exchange information that way.

New uses for NFC definitely seem to be on the rise. PatientID+, for example, allows users to store their medical information on a device or tag, then transfer that data to health care providers on arrival (after entering a PIN), with no more tedious forms to fill out. In Los Angeles and Minneapolis-St. Paul, NFC phones are now being used by public transport operators to read ticket information and verify payments.

Clearly, anytime credit card or health information can be shared by mobile devices, security needs to be taken into account. With NFC, security may be even more critical, as data could conceivably be picked up from a distance with an antenna. That being the case, encryption is absolutely necessary, and making certain to use a PIN or password also greatly enhances security. (According to a survey taken last year by AVG and the Ponemon Institute, less than half of consumers used key locks or passwords to secure their mobile devices — obviously this is an area in need of improvement). There are also devices now that can recognize users’ faces or be unlocked with a thumb impression.

Such security technologies will no doubt continue to be developed as we trust our mobile devices for sharing and storing ever-more-sensitive data. One thing is for certain: NFC isn’t going away. As a matter of fact, we think it will actually be a big driving force in the economy beginning this year.

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