NFC uses beyond mobile payment: romance, storage and magic

By now you’re likely familiar with near-field communications (NFC)technology and its ability to help process mobile payments. But NFC’s boosters think it’s capable of more, oh, so much more.

During the NFC Summit at 4G World in Chicago this week,representatives from many companies in the NFC market stressed that mobilepayments were just the beginning of the many uses that NFC capabilitieswill bring to our smartphones. Hans Reisgies, an NFC guru and seniorvice president of products and sales at Sequent Software, said that hecan’t wait to see how NFC-enabled phones improve the experience ofdating.

“Let’s say you’re at a social function and there’s an attractivenessbetween you and another person there but you don’t know if you want tospend time trying to get to know them,” he said. “So what do we do?Well, we could do standard questions-and-answers. Or we take out ourphones and tap them together to exchange our eHarmony IDs. This gets me acompatibility score immediately so we now know how eHarmony thinks ofour compatibility.”

Hank Chavers, an associate principle at the Constratus technologyconsulting firm, said that the Secure Element chip embedded in Google Wallet could let peoplestore several vital documents, including birth certificates, passportsand driver’s licenses on their smartphones where they could be accessedeasily upon request. Secure Element is a chip that is separate from adevice’s memory that is used to store encrypted credit card data and isdesigned to “self-destruct” if anyone tampers with it. With this kindof James Bond-style security in place, Chavers said there’s no reasonthat Google Wallet can’t keep sensitive identity information just assafe as mobile payment information.

Breaking consumer habits
Of course, panelists at the NFC Summit also acknowledged that for thesenew and innovative uses of NFC to catch on, it would have to work as a mobile payment platform first.

“I’ve always said I want to see NFC make dating easier but Match.comand eHarmony aren’t yet willing to make an upfront investment in theinfrastructure to make that a reality,” said Reisgies. “Once thepayment industry has made that investment and has built all thatinfrastructure we can do many, many more things with NFC.”

But even though mobile payments will inevitably be NFC’sbread-and-butter application, that doesn’t mean mobile payments will bejust about the dry process of paying for goods with your phone. OsamaBedier, Google’s vice president of payments, said today that the mobilepayment system had to deliver “magical experiences” to users that wouldbreak their habits of using standard credit cards or paying withcash. Among other things, Bedier envisioned Google Walletgiving users the ability to purchase airline boarding passes with theirphones and then storing digital copies of their passes on their phoneswhere they could be used in lieu of paper documents. He also picturedgiving users the ability to preorder coffee over their phones and tohave it ready for them when they reached the cafe, thus eliminating theneed to wait in lines.

“Google Wallet is all about magical moments that save time and money,”said Bedier.

Reisgies echoed NFC’s “magical” potential throughout his paneldiscussion and suggested that NFC could even make standing in line topay for something “cool” if used properly.

“There is some magic about NFC,” he said. “The consumers say, ‘Isn’tthat cool, I just paid with my phone. And the people in the line behindme they may now think I’m cool too.'”

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