The topic of Near Field Communication (NFC) came up again this week with reports that the new iPhone will contain NFC chips. While I don’t care to speculate about the new iPhone, I do believe NFC is about to become very important for businesses in the next few years.
Why is NFC so important? How will it impact your business? Today, I’d like to answer those questions. In this article, we’ll take a look at the basics of NFC and how it can help your business.
What is NFC?
NFC is a technology standard that is used to transfer data between two devices at close range (usually within 4 inches of one another). For example, two NFC-equipped smartphones could transfer a data file simply by touching the devices together.
However, NFC goes far beyond transferring data from one smartphone to another. The real power of NFC comes in the form of tags. NFC tags are essentially paper-thin circuits that store data which can then be read by (or even overwritten) by an NFC-equipped device, like a smartphone. NFC tags can be placed almost anywhere, and can store all types of data. For instance, NFC tags could be placed on walls, embedded in paper, built into products, and much more.
How is this useful?
So, how is NFC useful to your business? The answer: All sorts of ways. Rather than try to explain every possible way, let me share a few examples of different ways businesses could (and probably will) use NFC in the near future:
1. Quickly launch mobile applications
If you take a look at this article, I explained a great way to use QR codes with mobile web apps: When you scan a QR code with your smartphone, it can open up the mobile version of that app. This saves you the time of opening up your browser and typing in a URL. For example, try scanning one of the QR codes found on the Crazybikes demo site (in the top right corner) and see what happens.
I mention this because NFC can do the same thing…only better. How so? Well, rather than opening up a QR code reader application and scanning the code with your phone’s camera, a NFC tag can launch a mobile web app with a tap. Here’s a good example of this concept in action: Suppose you placed an NFC tag somewhere in your receiving department. When new shipments arrive, employees could just tap the tag with their phone to open up the inventory logging application. Wouldn’t that be pretty useful?
2. Provide more information
NFC tags placed on your products, on advertisements, or even in your office building could give potential customers an easy way to learn more information about you or your products. Here’s an example: Retail stores could place NFC tags on price tags, letting customers quickly access product reviews from around the web with a simple tap of their phone.
3. Replace paper forms
Here’s a more advanced use for NFC tags: Hospitals could place NFC tags in their patient’s wristbands. Rather than fill out forms for every patient, doctors and nurses can just scan the tag and pull up an application with all of that patient’s data. After making notes to the patient’s record, they can scan the tag again to add that new information to the patient’s NFC tag.
Now, the examples above are just the tip of the iceberg. NFC can be used in all sorts of ways, like in mobile payment systems (Google Wallet), ticket-less travel systems, home/business automation, and much more. You’ll no doubt hear a lot more about NFC in the coming months, as it gains popularity.
NFC is primed to be the next big thing in technology. Not only is it extremely useful, it’s also very easy to use. As more and more smartphones roll out with NFC capabilities, we will see more and more usage of NFC in everyday life. The question for you: How will your business take advantage of this new trend?