Near-Field… Near Future?

Unless you were cryogenically frozen for the last eleven months, you were aware of the hype and anticipation towards the recently launched iPhone 5. It’s a yearly ritual of feature speculation with each new release of the iPhone. Since the release of the iPhone 4S last year, a flurry of speculation was that the iPhone 5 would finally debut NFC technology.

Near field communication (NFC) has been the subject of much hype and hate over the past couple of years. In the mind of the general public, if Apple adopts a piece of technology, it is a sign-off for the rest of the world to get on board (despite Apple being late to many tech parties over the past decades). Widespread anticipation of the iPhone 5 and NFC capability had tech heads, Wall Street, and brands waiting for one particular slide in Apple’s keynote. Alas, that slide never came. Meanwhile, Samsung, Nokia, Microsoft, Motorola, and others have already begun to incorporate NFC technology into some of their products.

What is NFC?
NFC is a form of RFID (radio-frequency identification) that utilizes short-range radio frequencies that users can use for mobile payments, social networking, and other various mobile applications. NFC is a useful tool, no doubt, but there are questions as to the overall need for the technology.

As with many new technologies, there is a steep adoption rate. Bleeding edge carries a large price in today’s technologically driven world. Being the first out the gate doesn’t guarantee a first place finish in whatever market you are operating and competing in. Adopting NFC tech means adopting new equipment, new operations, the cost of building awareness and often a case of educating not only staff, but more importantly the consumer. All of these hurdles exist before you even begin to wrap your brain and your budget around privacy and security concerns. The convenience of mobile payments via NFC is held up by another pathway to hackers getting access to your identity and your money.

NFC technology is backed by Isis, a mobile wallet joint venture between Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Isis’ financial services partners include American Express, JPMorgan Chase, and Capital One Finance.

Beyond the dollars and cents of your wallet, NFC offers brands the to opportunity to market messages directly to consumers in a way never seen before. Simply waving your NFC-enabled device to a terminal and users can receive coupons, messages, and information directly. There are a host of opportunities to explore with any newly adopted tech and things are no different with NFC. With the amount of time it’s taking for any sort of widespread adoption of the tech only leads to the Googles of the world who support the technology to dream up new uses for it in hopes of maximizing their return if critical mass is met.

Your smartphone may be your mobile organizer, game system, and computer, but it’s not quite your wallet. Not yet at least.



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