Near Field Communication (NFC) technology has been touted as the key to unlocking mobile payments. And although the “digital wallet”—where payment information can be transmitted with the tap of a smartphone— is predicted to be the big future payment method of choice, potential for this transformative technology is much greater and broader, with more immediate applications today at the device-to-device level.
Now, NFC technology is about to spread it wings and push its way into the mainstream. Google, which is committed to an open and forward-looking software ecosystem with its Android mobile operating system, has selected Broadcom’s open NFC software stack for all Android-based devices, including the new Google Experience Devices – the Nexus 10 tablet and Nexus 4 smartphone, which were announced October 29 as part of the update to the Android operating system.
A quick explainer for those unfamiliar with NFC: it’s a short-range radio technology (shorter than Bluetooth, for example) that consists of two chips, a reader and a tag. It allows devices, such a smartphone, to transmit data to an NFC-enabled reader, such as a cash register, for a connection to occur.
That connection can be much more than just money changing hands in a transaction. It potentially could allow consumers to tap-to-share and tap-to-stream content seamlessly from one NFC-enabled device to another. That means instant pairing (say, of a headset to a TV) and instant sharing (say, of photos captured on a smartphone, but displayed on a TV).
NFC is also instrumental to the further development of “contactless” services that are currently in the works— the ability to swipe a bus pass, exchange virtual loot while gaming or get up-to-the-minute coupons while out shopping, for example.
Spurring NFC Adoption
There’s definitely some excitement around what’s possible in this next mobile frontier. Usage is expected to explode in the next few years to some 48 million mobile payment users by 2016, according to a report last month by eMarketer. Likewise, the adoption of Android devices is continuing at breakneck pace, according to the latest figures from market tracker IDC. The Android operating system was found on three out of four smartphones shipped during the third quarter, IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker showed. And with both Google and Broadcom committed to an open, vendor-agnostic ecosystem around NFC, the technology will likely be adopted at a fast rate.
As such, Broadcom is also working closely with the NFC Forum to promote industry-leading specifications that, coupled with Google’s open environment, boosts mass market adoption by smartphone manufacturers and consumers. Someday, NFC will be as familiar to consumers as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. As it continues to change the way people interact with their devices, NFC is sure to quickly become the next must-have technology.