Recent developments around near field communication (NFC) have the blogoshpere buzzing. The top three mobile platforms, Android, iOS, and Windows Phone 7 are rumored to be preparing to support NFC.

According to a recent study, one third of iPhone users indicated that they were "likely" or "very likely" to use mobile payments. Analysis from Juniper Research states that NFC mobile payments market will exceed $75 billion globally by 2013, when 20% of all phones shipped will possess NFC capability. No surprise then that the industry is working towards integrating NFC chips in the phone.

Once NFC chips are integrated into phones, a host of new applications can be built that:

  • help people access such things as public transport, office buildings, or their cars
  • download music, videos, and discount coupons from smart posters
  • act as an identity card to make purchases or exchange business cards
  • help facilitate the pairing of Bluetooth devices

A Usage Scenario

Here’s a scenario of how NFC coupled with location-based services (LBS) could simplify people’s daily lives.

Location: Bangalore
Scenario: Meeting a friend at an unknown location
Phones: NFC and LBS enabled phone

  • The user keys in address in mapping app in phone, selecting the local train as the transportation method.
  • The mapping app identifies nearest train station from the user’s current location and shows directions for how to reach the station on foot.
  • Following the instructions, the user reaches the train station.
  • At the station, the user makes a quick purchase of a magazine from vending box by tapping his phone with NFC reader to provide payment.
  • The user taps his phone on the station turnstile reader, which finds that the user has a valid pass to the train system and so lets the user enter the station.
  • The user reaches the destination station and taps the exit gate with his phone.
  • The user passes a “smart poster” advertising a movie that interests him, so he taps his phone to the poster to download the movie’s trailer, show times, and promotional discounts.
  • The user checks his location again to find the fastest route to his friend’s location, and selects a cab as the transportation method.
  • The phone identifies cabs in the vicinity and signals the nearest one to pick up.
  • When the cab arrives, the user taps the cab’s customer terminal to transmit the destination information and confirm that he was the one who called the cab.
  • When the cab reaches the destination, the user pays the fare by tapping the phone to the customer terminal.
  • The user meets his friend, and they tap their phones to friend each other on Facebook.
  • The pair walk into the theatre, and the user taps the theatre’s NFC reader to buy tickets using the discount received from the smart poster.

This is my prediction of the near future. With a simple tap, NFC enables effortless access to the everyday tools and services we use, and simplifies our daily activities.