Near Field Communication (NFC) in the mobile market is a topic that may or may not be getting the consideration that it should. Certainly, there are potential uses for it, both good and bad.
There are two categories in which NFC is utilized: open and secure. As the names imply, one version of the technology allows for the use of NFC in a secure manner, such as in Google Wallet or as a replacement for the Oyster Card, which is used for travel and sightseeing in the London area.
The other NFC category, open NFC, will be used more commonly for sharing of personal data, revealing product information or discounts, location check-in, or gameplay between multiple devices that are in close proximity to each other.
So how will all this help the mobile user in the future? Overall, that question is simple to answer: NFC tags can be promoted at any location, including a phone retail point, a coffee shop, or even at the local supermarket, with immediate and measurable results for businesses that perform data mining.
The more devices that have the NFC technology embedded into them, the easier it will be for marketers to provide targeted advertisements to the smartphone shoppers and to facilitate truly accurate location-based services. Instead of GPS location or inaudible signals being used for check-in services, companies like Shopkick, FourSquare, or CheckPoints will be able to more distinctly target users within locations.
NFC technology could also be used, to help in the ordering process, by companies like Peapod that deliver groceries directly to customers' homes. Signage could be posted at train stops, along walkways, or other highly frequented locations. These companies could have product listings available to be scanned, and then description and ordering quantities could be input on a mobile device by the shopper, thus creating a shopping list. Customers could place their orders with a time for delivery and never have to take the extra time out of their days to purchase food.
Marketers will be able to use NFC technology to bring a new level of interactivity to the shopping experience. The technology can provide stock quantities to shoppers and inform them if the size, color, or style that they are wanting to purchase is located in the store or at another location nearby.
One key point is that NFC tag-reading requires very little existing infrastructure. The biggest aspect of the future success of NFC will be the manufacture of NFC-capable devices out in the market and recognition from businesses of the benefit. Various devices can be built and enabled with NFC technology, such as wireless speakers or headphones. Such a scenario would allow for a simple tap from an NFC music player to transfer the music from the headphones to the speakers. You can imagine the wide variety of consumer electronics and devices that could be developed along these lines.
How will you consider using NFC in the future? Will you incorporate item-specific sales with quantity and location information? Will you use it to promote targeted sales to tech-savvy mobile users? Or will you mass-deploy NFC tags throughout store locations to determine visitor check-ins?
There are lots of choices -- and, hopefully, there's a lot to look forward to.
— Chris S. Vargas is a director at an independent consulting firm located in the Midwest that focuses on marketing, IT, and management initiatives for companies.