NFC: Services Around the Corner?
As well as the developments in China and Korea with mobile operators and the finance industry teaming up to offer mobile payments, there are more indications over the last few weeks that NFC based services will be available very shortly. Orange and Barclaycard are planning to launch by the end of 2010. Citi Group is also planning a launch in India in the same timeframe. This follows the conclusion of the 6 month trial in Bangalore that saw about 3,000 users making around 45,000 purchases at 250 merchant locations. These are not insignificant developments and indeed when fulfilled will make life easier for users who are able to pay for smaller value items with a wave of their device, instead of fumbling for the right change. Speed of transactions will be boosted, and there will be more benefits for merchants including a reduction in the amount of cash that they need to count, and possible errors in this process, not to mention the danger of loss of cash and the time taken with paying into the bank account. So why hasn't NFC "happened" sooner, if it's got so much going for it? Well, one factor has been the sheer number of parties involved in rolling out services including mobile operators, financial institutions and banks, device makers and infrastructure vendors. Possibly there could be more than one of each as well, depending on the market. Then there's the merchants themselves. There need to be sufficient contactless readers installed at merchant locations to enable transactions. Sounds obvious? Well yes - but this means investment by merchants such as coffee houses, fast food stores, and similar stores. Maybe some supermarkets will have an NFC fast checkout rather like the self service checkouts we're all now familiar with. It also means that staff need to be trained and no doubt there are further operational impacts within stores. So, whilst it's great news that services are getting closer, there are still hurdles to be surmounted.