NFC: Signs of Progress but the Picture is Bigger
In the last few weeks I've noticed a number of developments in NFC. In the Czech Republic, the City of Pilsen public transit system in conjunction with O2 has launched its local travel card as an NFC application. There are currently some 230,000 users of the card who stand to benefit from the new technology if they acquire an NFC phone. Then, in further news, it has been reported that Nokia is going to include NFC in its smartphones from 2011, the Moscow Metro in conjunction with MTS is planning to launch NFC ticketing late this year and Broadcom has offered to buy Innovision, the NFC chip maker. One of the benefits of NFC is that, whilst yes there are many well documented benefits of being able to pay with your phone, there are also many other applications that can be enabled. So, using Pilsen as an example, I noticed that the uses of the card range from an electronic purse to pay for goods and services of contractual partners, tickets for cultural events, a library card, a meal card in school cafeterias to monitoring employee attendance and enabling use of printers. I'd expect that at least some of these uses will gradually become available by NFC. With mobile commerce we're finding that it's less and less about individual applications in isolation and more and more about joined up thinking. Taking tickets and coupons as an example, instead of having a one-off purchasing experience, ticketing operators can develop relationships with their customers. They can use (opt -in) campaigns to identify their needs and preferences. Then they can fine tune their offers to suit, and link in ticket sales for events. This is where NFC fits in well. For NFC in future one of the challenges though is the installation of the contactless readers at POS and other appropriate locations. This is why transit systems are early adopters: because the deployment is usually in a metro area rather than national scale and so of more manageable proportions. Also, crucially, payment amounts tend be smaller value but high volume. But then, commercial offers and coupons for 20% off your coffee whilst you're waiting for the train become clear commercial opportunities to drive footfall for retail establishments.