Two New Developments in NFC

Near-field communication has been very strong in the area of mobile payments. This is the reason why most financial institutions and banks have included NFC functionality into their wireless payment services.

Commonwealth Bank has upgraded their mobile banking app for both Windows 8 and Android devices. The new mobile app can now make NFC payments via Commonwealth Bank’s Tap & Pay system.

The mobile app can be used with any merchant that uses MasterCard PayPass.

The good news is that you do not have to rely on having an NFC chip embedded in your phone to use these apps. The bank has released payment tags that you can stick at the back of your phone so that you could turn your ordinary smartphone into an NFC-enabled phone. In fact, the bank is making this available for the iPhone in January 2014. The iPhone is notoriously snubbing NFC.

But more than just making sure that people, even those who do not have NFC-enabled smartphones, will be able to use the service, there are other features too. For example, the Commonwealth Bank mobile app allows users to choose which account to pay from, as well as being able turn the NFC on and off when they wish.

The new app seems to be in response to their competitors moves into NFC payments. Westpac is currently working with Visa to give their customers a new NFC payments service starting in 2014. Westpac has said that only NFC-enabled Android smartphones would be able to use the service.

NFCMe.com has also stumbled upon another use for NFC: making it easier for people to remember if they have already taken their medications or not.

The company, Gema Touch, has developed an NFC system that allows you to use your smartphone to keep track of your many medications. Their kit has NFC stickers that you could put on your medicine bottles. When you take your medications, all you have to do is to tap your smartphone to the bottle.

Not only will this record which medications you have taken, these records will also be sent to your doctors.

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Mobile Payments: Could Bluetooth Pose a Threat for Near-Field Communication?

Near-field communication has always been the go-to technology when it comes to mobile payments and mobile wallets.

But because of a lot of factors, there have not really been a lot of people who have taken up mobile wallets that are NFC-assisted. The consensus is, paying with your smartphone is not convenient enough to replace paying with credit cards or with cash.

Now people have another choice: mobile payments via Bluetooth.

Bluetooth is not on its fourth iteration and Bluetooth 4.0 has a very low power version in Bluetooth LE. Bluetooth LE acts similarly to NFC, in that it can wirelessly connect two devices. The good thing with Bluetooth LE is that a single battery can power the device for years on end. What’s more, if you use Bluetooth LE to pay, you do not even have to take your phone out of your wallet.

Already, some big names are already on board to use Bluetooth LE. For example, PayPal has Beacon. PayPal will help retailers set up Bluetooth modules inside their shop. Once a customer comes within range of these modules, the system will set up the connection via Bluetooth. All the customer has to do is to accept to be able to pay for his or her purchases.

Apple is also planning to put in Bluetooth LE connectivity to its iOS 7. Apple has so far been snubbing NFC in its iPhones and iPad releases.

The best thing about Bluetooth LE is that it is highly targeted. Meaning, the store would be able to specify the range of its signals. So even if there are a lot of you lining up to pay at the counter, the Bluetooth LE signal would ignore all others except for the one who is about to pay.

But is this enough to pose a threat to NFC payments?

Not really. As we see it, Bluetooth LE would need to go through all the pains that NFC has successfully gone through. It will need retailers to update their registers to be able to accept Bluetooth LE. Also, like NFC payments, it would take a while to educate consumers about the technology.

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Interactive New Year’s Eve in Australia Planned with NFC

Near-field communication makes it very easy for people to get information and files from the Internet. This is even without having to tap a single letter on their smartphones.

People can use near-field communication to just tap their smartphones and get the information and data they want to access.

This is the reason why a lot of mobile app developers are using NFC to help people download their apps when they are out of their homes. For example, an app developer can put up a poster or a flyer in a public place advertising their mobile apps. Then affix a smart tag to it, allowing people to just tap their smartphones, go to their respective app stores, download and install the mobile app.

All of these take about five seconds. This surely beats having to go to your app store, searching for the right mobile app and then downloading it yourself.

This is what Telstra and the City of Sydney is doing for their New Year’s Eve mobile app. The mobile app would allow users to call their family on midnight of New Year’s Eve. They can also submit a text message and have the chance to have the same text message displayed on the pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the New Year’s Eve festivities.

Telstra and the City of Sidney also asked Tapit to provide the services that would allow people to download the app via NFC.

If you are in Australia and would love to get the app, just look for a Telstra phone box, approach a Telstra retail staff or get posters and other marketing materials. Tap your phone to it and you can get the app without any hassles.

This is a good idea, actually. Telstra is giving away their content using something that they already have: the 1,100 phone boxes that they have as well as the 1,300 lanyards on their employees. It is all just a matter of using NFC to activate all of these! Not a bad investment right?

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Intel to Put NFC into Computers

Intel, a leading chip manufacturer, is planning to put near-field communication into desktop and laptop computers. The chip maker is integrating NXP Semiconductor’s PN544PC NFC chip.

What does this mean? You can now just tap your mobile phone or a contactless payment card to your computer to buy stuff online. This is a great move for consumers because they can no longer have to own an NFC-enabled phone, they only need a contactless card from their banks. So if you do not want to sell your iPhone just for NFC, you can still experience the convenience of NFC payments!

For merchants, this will not only expand their customer base but also help them offer NFC payments without having to buy additional software and hardware. They can let their customers pay using a PC with the NFC chip in it. Instead of buying a NFC terminal!

Currently, you can pay using MasterCard MasterPass. This is the only service that now has the capability, but other services are planned and soon.

What’s more, it is very secure! The new payment method is backed by Intel’s Identity Protection Technology.

This is a great idea too. As you all know, the e-commerce market is seen to be a $162 billion market here in the United States.

We really think that this is a great development as it lowers the barriers of entry for merchants and consumers who want to use NFC for their payments. Instead of waiting for NFC-enabled phones and terminals, you can just get a PC and get the capability to both pay and accept NFC-enabled payments!Praveen Vishakantaiah, the general manager of Intel’s PC client group’s client solutions and technologies, says that the Identity Protection Technology will enable e-commerce sites to ascertain if the transaction is really from you or not. What’s more, according to Rutger Vrijen, NXP Semiconductor’s vice president for RFID tagging and infrastructure, says that NFC is inherently secure, ensuring ultra-secure transactions for safe online shopping.

 

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NFC Forum and Bluetooth SIG to Work Together

Competing technologies are often pitted against one another. It seems that people cannot help comparing similar technologies with similar features and functions. One technology always had to be a winner.

For instance, people have been pitting QR codes and near-field communication against one another, often declaring one or the other as the winner.

This kind of comparison is seldom productive. In the real world, it is very much possible to have two competing technologies work together. This will make sure that your marketing campaign, app or whatever you have will be doubly successful because you are covering all bases. A user without an NFC-enabled device will be able to make use of QR codes, while those who want to use NFC will be able to use it to work with your app.

This scenario is also true for Bluetooth. Because NFC and Bluetooth are both wireless technologies that allow two devices to communicate to one another, the comparison and the fight is unavoidable.

The good news is that we may be seeing applications that use both NFC and Bluetooth. The NFC Forum and the Bluetooth Special Interest Group have already signed a Memorandum of Understanding that would see the two groups working together more closely.

NFC Forum is the industry association that seeks to promote and advance NFC technology, while the Bluetooth SIG seeks to develop and promote Bluetooth.

These two groups have already worked before in preparing the Bluetooth Secure Simple Pairing Using NFC document for developers. This time around, the two groups are looking to expand and update that document so that it could include new Bluetooth Smart products and possibly NFC testing.

They are also going to examine interoperability between the two technologies and ways on improving user experience when using both NFC and Bluetooth.

NFC Forum’s Paula Hunter that NFC use is going to increase over the next few years with close to one billion devices forecasted to be available by 2016. Meanwhile, Bluetooth SIG has 20,000 companies under its fold.

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NFC Reference Guide for Air Travel Out Now

The Fast Travel Working Group of the International Air Transport Association and the NFC Forum’s Air Transport Task Force has recently released a comprehensive and new reference guide for airlines and other air travel related companies who are planning to use near field communication.

Content, guidelines and regulations that are included in this guide is the result of the extensive collaboration between the two groups.

If you want to get your own copy, you can simply proceed to the NFC Forum Web site or download the document from this link: http://www.nfc-forum.org/resources/white_papers/2013_10_28_NFC_Reference_Guide_for_Air_Travel_FINAL.pdf

Companies in the air travel business can benefit from getting the document as it helps them better evaluate and understand the technology. It can also help them get familiar with the benefits of using NFC as well as its costs. You would also be guided about how to use NFC for your marketing and operations.

And these are valuable points to know. You get the experts at the IATA telling you about the different requirements for using the NFC technology and you have the NFC Forum, which is the leading advocate of NFC technology.

There are a lot of uses for NFC in the air travel industry. For example, you could speed up your operations by allowing your passengers and customers to use NFC.

What are the possible uses of NFC for air travel companies?

For one, you could use it for boarding passes so that your customers could use their smartphones as their boarding passes. Airports could use NFC to give secured access to the right individuals. Luggage tags could contain NFC to ensure that airlines could easily track your luggage if it gets lost. Or simply, you can use NFC payments for transactions at the airport coffee shop or any retailer. These are just some examples, there are others!

So download your copy today.

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NFC News Tidbits: Proxama, Vanguard and Google’s NFC Moves

Proxama PLC has announced that it has been picked by CBS Outdoor to provide near-field communication technology for its advertising projects.

CBS Outdoor will be using TapPoint in its outdoor advertising, allowing target consumers to just tap their smartphones or tablet to the ads and get more content and information.

Proxama provide mobile commerce services but focuses more on near-field communication.

Luggage Tags Now Have NFC

Vanguard ID Systems, a manufacturer of RFID tags, NFC and bar-coded tags, has come up with a new way for airline passengers to keep track of their luggage.

With Vanguard’s new tags, there is no longer any need for those barcode stickers at the airport!

The tag uses NFC, QR codes and RFID. It also utilizes e-Ink technology, similar to those found on e-book readers. A passenger can use his or her smartphone to control the information displayed on the tag. The tag can show the passenger’s destinations and he or she can change it anytime.

If the luggage gets lost, or you are wondering where it is, you can use the RFID to locate it. You are also notified via SMS message where your luggage is. Further, you can leave instructions on how airline personnel could deliver your baggage.

It would seem that aside from convenience, these new luggage tags would be a great way for airlines to save. They no longer have to purchase printer ink and sticker paper to tag your luggage. Instead, they just use this high-tech bag tags!

Google Releases Android KitKat 4.4

Google has finally rolled out the much-anticipated Android KitKat, the latest version of its operating system.

The new KitKat now consumes less memory and can easily run on mobile devices that only have 512 MB of RAM at least.

There is also a new API for use.

But among the improvements and new features, what excites us most is the incorporation of secured near-field communication transmissions via Host Card Emulation.

Host Card Emulation allows the NFC-enabled phone to act line any NFC smartcard, making it easier for the users to manage a variety of payment cards, loyalty and rewards cards.

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Is Near-Field Communication Dead?

A lot of critics have been saying that near-field communication is nothing but a fad. Sure, there are a lot of companies, payment services, banks and financial institutions that are scrambling to offer NFC-assisted payments to their customers.

However, there is really a problem when it comes to the devices that have the NFC embedded in it. In 2012, NFC became a feature that only the best and most expensive smartphones had. So there was more or less a clique of people who could use NFC payment services such as Google Wallet, among others.

Add to the fact that Apple has repeatedly snubbed NFC technology and refused to add it to iPhones and iPads.

But the good news is that ABI Research estimates that there will be at least 285 million devices sold this year with the NFC chip embedded in it. That number will continue to rise. By the end of the first quarter of 2014, ABI says that they more than half a billion devices will be NFC enabled.

Yes, that is right. 500 million devices by April 2014.

Samsung is seen to be a primary driver of the technology as it has clear-cut strategies that revolve around near-field communication. LG, Sony and other consumer electronic brands are also incorporating NFC into a wide array of products.

NFC still retains a big potential in the payments services industry, but it also holds great promise in consumer electronics. NFC allows for fast and easy interaction between different devices and even between devices and their users. In fact, NFC is no longer just confined to mobile phones, but we have seen NFC in just about consumer electronic product such as speakers, televisions, PCs, gaming devices, appliances and even cameras.

So is NFC dead? Not by a long shot. In fact, it is just starting to get noticed. As more and more devices get the NFC chip in it, more users will follow. People will be introduced to NFC technology as they watch TV or as they use their smartphones. And this increased number in users would lead to more developers taking notice of NFC and more services following.

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NFC Bootcamp in Toronto this November

NFC Bootcamp is coming to Toronto, Canada on November 5 and 6, 2013.

Canadian marketers and business owners from all around the world can attend the program to be held at the Best Institute of the University of Toronto. This is where you can learn how to conduct a near-field communication campaign successfully. Registration costs $1,199.

This learning event is designed for C-level executives, top management, marketing and branding managers, payments and business strategy specialists, sales and business development professionals and other people who are interested in NFC.

NFC Bootcamp is the premiere learning event for all things NFC. They usually hold these bootcamps in different cities, but the program is standardized to ensure that you get the same level of learning no matter where you attend. In Toronto, you will hear from businesses and individuals who have had successfully come out with an NFC-based campaign to enhance their customer’s experiences, increase revenues, and build brand awareness.

Some of the speakers at the event include:

  • Pawel Chrobok, Director of Business Development, EnStream LP
  • Alain DeSouza, Vice President of Market Development, Sequent
  • Paula Berger, NFC Bootcamp
  • Tarek Luka, Oberthur Technologies

NFC Bootcamp also features modules on how to create and run an NFC campaign, as well as hands-on demonstrations, from some of the best experts in NFC. You can easily pick up the best practices in using NFC in your own business.

There is also the NFC Showcase that introduces you to dozens of NFC-enabled products and services, effectively seeing the technology in action!

This is actually the second event in Toronto, with the first one happening in April 2013. The April bootcamp was a success, prompting organizers to give others an opportunity to learn more about NFC technology.

In addition, if traveling to Canada is not an option, there are other classes in the near future, including classes in Dubai this December, as well as in Los Angeles, Tel Aviv and London in early 2014.

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ISIS: Problems Remain

Most people think that mobile payments assisted by near-field communication have gotten off on a bad start. There were so many roadblocks and problems. For one, not too many devices included an NFC chip on board. Apple has completely snubbed NFC for both its iPhone and iPad releases.

Another reason why NFC suffered was that there are just too many players in the NFC payments industry. There are still no standards governing NFC payments, and each provider wanted their own systems. For example, Google wanted people to use its Wallet service. AT&T and other telecommunication companies wanted people to wait for its ISIS service. Banks and financial institutions wanted their customers to use their own NFC payments flavor.

There is no word on whether these systems would be working with another. For example, can you use Google Wallet if the store owner uses an ISIS system?

Probably not.

The good news is that even with the low adoption numbers, these companies are pushing through with their NFC payments services. The lack of NFC-enabled mobile devices pushed Google to expand Wallet services to include QR codes and other technologies.

ISIS is said to be launching soon. The company’s CEO Michael Abbott was the keynote speaker of the recent Money2020 seminar and said that the payments service would soon be widely available. The company has been on trial run since the start of the year.

Not ready for primetime?

Abbott did not give a specific date, leaving us with the very vague launch happening in the next few weeks.

But is it ready for the market? Abbott said in his keynote that they were expecting to have 30 million users by the end of 2014. He also demonstrated a new ISIS app for the audience.

But his presentation was riddled with technical glitches, making people think that the app was not ready for launch. In fact, people were there said that they were not impressed by ISIS or Abbott’s presentation.

The thing is, ISIS is receiving lukewarm response. People are simply not excited by it, nor are they excited by prospect of using the app. Plus much of the problems we have mentioned above have not been resolved.

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