I love acronyms, don’t you? They make everything sound so technical and make you sound smart in general conversation. Well, here’s another one for you, NFC. My very first article here at TheBlueDot was about Google Wallet using NFC for credit card transactions. That didn’t amount to much at the time since only a couple phones had the technology to use it. But now, later this year, almost every new smart phone will have NFC, including the iPhone 5. So what is NFC, how will it be used, and is it even worth your interest?
NFC translates directly into Near Field Communication. Essentially it’s like a smarter version of those quick pass credit cards, where you just have to wave the credit card over a panel to pay for merchandise. The idea behind NFC is to enable your phone to be an easier data transmitting device. NFC is a lot like Bluetooth, in that it attaches to other devices and relays information, but bluetooth moves much faster and usually needs some sort of pairing. While NFC requires no pairing and just automatically connects to what your putting it next to, or on top of. This may make it sounds very insecure, but the idea behind NFC is that the range is so small you would have to hold it super close to whatever your having your phone read, so no one can use your NFC to attach to your phone from across the room, or even one foot away from you. Plus, you have to have to turn it on for each action anyway, it doesn’t just stay on all the time.
The first major driving force behind NFC is to make your phone your wallet. Essentially you can scan in all your credit cards, or attach your bank account to Google Wallet on your Android cell phone, and just have your
wireless device on you to buy things out in the world. The extra security is that you have to enter a pin to open the app, and then enter an additional pin for each card you’re using. Even if you use the same pin for all your cards, if the first pin is different (the one to open the app up in the first place) you should be rather secure. Not to mention you can shut off your Google Wallet app remotely on your computer if your phone is ever stolen or lost.
Another use for NFC is advertisement. Magazines have been trying to find new ways to make themselves relevant again. With the rise of Blogs and social media, it has become tougher and tougher for magazines to hold on to subscribers. By putting small NFC chips into their pages, you can get free content or additional news directly to your phone with a wave of your device. I don’t find this to be enough to save the magazine industry, but at least they are trying new things. There has been whispers that even posters will use this tech. For example, you could see a movie poster, wave your phone across it and suddenly your watching the trailer on your phone or tablet.
NFC can also be used to transfer data from one device to another. There is already a few apps out there that allow you to “bump” a friends phone with your own to transfer an app, picture or even videos. But this uses Bluetooth, which takes time to connect and can drain a cell phones battery. With NFC, though it is much slower at transferring data, you simply have to turn it on and put your phone next to your friends to share content. Anything from maps, coupons business documents and more could be easily transferred in seconds making your phone, not only your wallet, but your digital filing cabinet.
The future of NFC is rather exciting, a few ideas have been milling about to integrate ID’s and other important information to make it easier to identify you if your hurt, or to just wave your phone over a device to get alcohol or enter a club. Most drivers licenses have data strips on the back already, so the transition should be rather easy, it’s the security against fake ID’s that would take time.
Another idea is having a digital key ring. By getting a new locking device on your door, be it a car, your home or work, you can have your cell phone be the device that unlocks it. This would enable you to easily transfer unlocking ability to friends who may be house sitting for you, or to movers, cleaning and utility specialist who may need to enter your home for a short time while your at work. This excites me the most because it enables you to get friends to help feed pets or pick something up for you in your home without having to worry about having extra keys laying around. Just give them a couple hours of access, or the moment they reach your door, and then shut off the access when they are done.
Of course, the scary part of all of this is having any and all your information digitally stored on one device. Having everything so easily at hand can be frightening, though you already do most of that by touting around a wallet or purse. The difference is your wallet and purse don’t have a possible constant 3g or 4g connection to the internet. With such a leap in digital commerce to the real world, digital security will surely follow suit… Or I hope it will anyway.