five ways NFC may change your life

NFC (Near Field Communications) is a wireless technology that lets two devices securely talk together over distances less than 4cm. While usually associated with mobile payment, this is not the limit to its potential.
It has taken a while to mature, but now In-Stat estimates global annual shipments of NFC chips will reach 1.2 billion by 2015. The ambitious prediction is based on the giants of the mobile handset industry incorporating NFC in their smartphones. A wave of NFC-enabled Windows and Android handsets are expected in the coming months and Apple is expected to kick-start the business when it introduces an NFC iPhone next year.
So, how will NFC change our lives?

your phone is your wallet

For years Apple has been working on transforming the iPhone into a mobile wallet. It has secured a host of patents and hired in mobile payment and NFC-related technology experts to help it in its attempt. 

The idea is simple: You wave your phone near an NFC-enabled terminal and then enter in your PIN number on your phone's screen. This authorizes a payment withdrawal from your account.  You could also pay for items in advance, then collect at store, using your mobile as your authorisation tool. 

There's challenges here: at present there's no clear international NFC payment system with banks and others siding with different alternatives.  And when it comes to smaller merchants, there's still little incentive for them to sign-up for these schemes.

your ticket to ride

It isn't just about payments. The attraction of NFC is that it can be used to safely and securely confirm your ID. This means it's a viable solution for automatic check-ins you can do entirely on your device

Ticketmaster is already working to offer NFC-based tickets for live events. Add a little location-sensing and it's possible your phone will not just be able to find and book a show for you, and be the event ticket, but will also be able to guide you to the correct seat.

Veritix is also working to ensure live event tickets issued using NFC are sharable, to the extent that you will be able to buy tickets for a group of people, and then send the rest of your party their own entry code.
In the US, New Jersey Transit now accepts Google Wallet and lets passengers purchase their travel tickets using NFC phones.

at the museum

The giant wand that is a museum audio guide is a great way to deliver information in multiple languages, but it could soon become a thing of the past. 

Using an NFC-based handset, you will in future be able to walk up to the ticket desk, wave your phone at a terminal and download a multilingual audo guide directly to your smartphone. Swiping your device in front of a terminal next to an exhibit will reveal information about it. Taking it one step further, NFC will allow the museum to offer interactive exhibits or discount vouchers for use in the museum shop.

Nokia is already developing NFC solutions with the Museum of London. By simply touching tags located throughout the museum, the visitors can delve deeper into London's history through a range of interactive exhibits.

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drive my car, baby

Numerous auto manufacturers are already moving to create NFC-based car keys. Firms involved include Continental, NXP, BMW and others.

These keys mean you'll only need to remember one device. Used alongside Wi-Fi and other technologies, with NFC it will also be possible to start your car, rev it up and start its heating using your key and an app. 

While some players are looking at replacing keys with the device, Continental and NXP's solution lets you wave your actual keys over your smartphone in order to access handy data: a car finder, route planner, car status, problem diagnosis tools and car personalization.
There are other uses, too. Want to lend your car to somebody? Simple. Just email them an electronic key and a link to the relevant car app while using your own device to let your car know who to expect. They walk up to your car and using the authorization key you've provided, your friend can get inside it using their NFC phone, and may be able to start it.

Groupon after Groupon

The beauty of discount voucher services such as Groupon is that consumers get presented with an array of discount goods at very little personal risk. Now imagine this is transferred to the high street. Using location technologies, consumers might be able to log into a service which enables vendors to send them geographically-targeted discount codes.

It works like this: You accept these codes and find yourself in a strange new town for the first time. As you walk down the high street you receive a text message. That message invites you to grab a cup of free coffee at a local patisserie if you sample one of their cakes. All you need to do is visit the shop, make the order and wave your NFC device across a terminal, the technology recognises your device and the deal is done. You might even pay for the cake using your device.

Businesses can send geographically relevant ads and offers to people who match their particular demographic target group. The rest of us benefit from being provided with expertly targeted discount offers to try new things. 
In Singapore the technology is also appearing within smartposters. Passers-by can use these iMobSMRT spaces to make transactions, exchange digital content and connect with others.
There are many more potential uses for these secure contactless technologies. Perhaps you are working to develop some yourself, so do let us know.
Stewart Baines
Stewart Baines

I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.