pile of wires

NFC – Tap to change the world (and your wallet)

by Cam Clark

Nostrodomus I am not, but I feel like I know a good thing when I see it. For a while now, I have liked what I have seen from the world of Near Field Communications (NFC). NFC is a short-range wireless technology already used throughout the world today. It’s gaining significant traction in places like Japan and Europe. As a cousin to Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), it operates on wireless frequencies connecting a user’s mobile device to a receiver or smart tag, usually a few centimeters away. NFC effectively allows you to wave your mobile device over a receiver or smart tag to exchange things like text, images and URLs effortlessly. You can also use it to make purchases and swap other data.

What will this have to do with you and me? A lot, potentially. With just a touch you could do any of the following:

NFC graphPair Electronic Devices

  • Home computer components
  • In-car devices
  • Home entertainment systems and remote controls
  • Headsets and handsets
  • Cameras and printers/digital frames


  • Quick and secure Wifi set-up. (Imagine just tapping your phone to a wifi base station to set up the connection)

Information Gathering

  • Just tap your mobile device to any smart tag and read product history or patient information, check in to a location or trade contact information, or get the latest movie trailer from tapping a movie poster.

Asset Management

  • Smart tags for product for inventory control


  • Ensure secure area access to your building or use your mobile device instead of a paper ticket.

The biggest impact will be in financial transactions. NFC is the first piece of tech to have a real chance to replace the credit card. Think about that for a second. Imagine how easy it would be to hold an NFC-enabled mobile phone close to a terminal to purchase products or services, download coupons or special offers, keep track of customer loyalty programs, pay for public transportation, go through pay turnstiles or even vending machines without cash, cards or tokens. We have been walking around with credit cards since the 1970s. Soon the swipe will be a tap.

NFC image
So what are we waiting for? Essentially, both the chicken and the egg. First off, you need a phone that has an NFC chip. Much like how phones started incorporating GPS chips a few years ago, new phones will start incorporating NFC chips. Juniper Research projects that by 2013, one in five mobile phones shipped will be NFC-enabled. We also will need to start incorporating smart tags and NFC tech into more products. Companies such as tagstand.com are already popping up to help make this a painless process.

If you take away one idea from this blog, it should be this: Keep your eyes, ears and smartphones peeled for new developments in this area. It should be a fun ride.


A conceptual video of what a day in the life of a college student equipped with NFC technology.

If you are a bit more geeky, like myself take a look at the first 17min of this video.