NFC - A “Touching” Story

Conference on near field communication (NFC) highlights growing acceptance in smartphone, healthcare, transportation and other markets, but monetization questions remain

By Byron Adams, Managing Editor

Near field communication (NFC) is not a new technology, but it will spearhead an adaptation in our mobile lives. Soon it will be commonplace for the general public to “tap” or “touch” devices with smartphones to pay for transactions, access information from a smartposter or unlock hotel room doors. Information can also be exchanged from smartphone to smartphone. Most in attendance at WIMA’s first NFC-USA conference November 2011 at the Mission Bay Conference Center in San Francisco agree that the technology will be ubiquitous; the question is how soon. The general consensus is that, while many hoped 2012 would be NFC’s coming-out year, 2013 will be the year NFC rushes into the mainstream.

NFC devices eliminate the need for business cards. Business contact information can be exchanged with an easy “tap.”

Intel representatives were in attendance to assess the value of NFC in their products. Intel is a sponsor of The NFC Forum, a non-profit industry association that advances the use of Near Field Communication technology. I asked Jeremy Rover, Senior network software engineer, Wireless Networking Lab at Intel, how they planned to implement NFC. His response was, “everywhere, anywhere there is a fit.”

Intel helped found and leads Continua, which is a proponent of NFC usage in healthcare. NFC offers tremendous value for the industry to improve efficiency. Healthcare professionals can use a tablet or any NFC-enabled device to touch a patient’s NFC bracelet or file to access the patient’s full medical history. Individuals can keep track of their health condition by stepping on a reader that measures cholesterol, weight, blood pressure, etc. By simply touching an NFC device to the reader, an individual can instantly update his medical file.


NFC will assert itself further in the transportation industry. Smartphones will eliminate the need for transient tickets by becoming the ticket. Riders can quickly tap a reader device as they board vehicles. NFC-enabled smartphones can also act as keys to homes, offices, hotels and dorm rooms. Arizona State University has implemented a successful trial in freshmen dormitories.

The big question at the conference was, “How do we monetize NFC?” Beyond advertising through digital signage, there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer. However, considering customers in just about every market will eventually regard this technology as the norm, organizations will have to meet those expectations. Basically, even if you’re not making money offering NFC, you’ll likely lose money by not offering NFC devices. Another question that arose at the conference was how will developers make a variety of tags and applications that work together across the board. Interoperability is key for NFC be successful on a global level.



Byron Adams is the assistant editor of Embedded Intel® Solutions. He has held positions as a content editor at technology marketing companies, as well as at a regional newspaper in the Southeast.