NFC: From rumour to reality

In April this year, I wrote a blog post about the vicious “will they or won’t they” cycle that the world of NFC technology was experiencing. Back then, having NFC become a staple feature in mobile devices seemed like a distant possibility. Ever since, NFC seems to have come a long way from being the subject of mere speculation, to news stories about live deployments.

Of course, it all starts with the device. In the past few months, we’ve seen LG and RIM announce their first NFC-enabled devices. Google were also at the forefront of promoting NFC in mobile payments, with the publishing of its ‘Google Wallet’ plans, and no doubt its recent purchase of Motorola Mobility is a sure-fire sign of investment in Google Wallet.

As a result, terminal manufacturers are also ensuring that new terminals will be NFC-supported. These are all significant steps towards an NFC-enabled world.

NFC’s uses are not limited to mobile payments, but for many, the terms ‘NFC technology’ and ‘mobile payments’ technology are synonymous. This looks set to set to change though, with developers increasingly looking to use NFC for augmented reality and location-based services.

Businesses will also be able to take advantage of NFC’s benefits in the mobile marketing arena, and just last week, three firms spanning the globe formed the “NFC World Alliance” – an organization dedicated to NFC’s development as a mainstream mobile marketing tool.

The market growth of NFC is certainly gaining momentum. However, if there’s no consumer buy-in to the technology, then this investment may all be wasted. The good news is that recent research conducted by the UK’s Internet Advertising Bureau clearly shows that consumers are quickly embracing NFC as an addition to phones, with 74% of consumers stating they felt like NFC is a good idea.

It seems clear that all the factors – from the availability of devices to consumer demand – are pointing towards an inflection point in the adoption of NFC technology. However, with numerous players in the market all vying for supremacy, this will only add to the chaos in the already fragmented mobile market.

It is therefore crucial that businesses are able to support whichever devices their customers have – no matter what platform that might be, whether iPhone, Android, Windows, Symbian and so on – if they are to support the different NFC systems that are inevitably going to start cropping up.

The breakneck speed at which the mobile industry has grown should be an indicator of the rate at which new technologies like NFC will penetrate the market. Any business who’s mobile strategy isn’t future (and platform) proofed will quickly fall behind.

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David Eads leads Product Marketing for Kony, the mobile commerce platform vendor. David is a mobile commerce veteran and was the founder of consulting firm Mobile Strategy Partners in 2009. As a blogger and frequent industry speaker, David has been interviewed about mobile for national media outlets like Mobile Commerce Daily, Marketplace on NPR, Inc Magazine, The Toronto Star, and The Christian Science Monitor. Additionally, David also has a decade of technical experience developing enterprise software systems in Java and other languages for UNIX, Windows, and other systems.