Yes, we’ve been harping a lot about Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology for a while now.
Mostly, I’ve been focusing on how NFC is going to shape the burgeoning mobile payments industry. If you’re unfamiliar with the technology, NFC-equipped phones – like the Samsung (LON: BC94) Galaxy Nexus or upcoming Galaxy S III – can pay for items in stores by tapping the device to a compatible payment terminal.
That way, in the near future, you can start leaving your wallet at home and pay for everything with your smartphone.
The problem is that the technology isn’t catching on as quickly as we imagined. Not from lack of interest, mind you. Gartner estimates that global mobile payments will exceed $171.5 billion this year, up 61.9% over 2011. So we know that consumers are already willing to use their phones to make purchases.
It’s other factors that are to blame for the slow adoption. Like the fact that most retailers aren’t equipped with terminals capable of accepting NFC payments, and there just aren’t that many devices with the chip on board. Even people with NFC-enabled phones aren’t all able to partake, however, given that some carriers are blocking applications that use the technology, like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Wallet.
Not exactly a list of hurdles that can be conquered overnight.
But now there’s a new NFC-related technology available that promises to help speed the process along…
NFC Wherever You Need It
They’re called “TecTiles.” Basically, they’re stickers made by Samsung that can be placed anywhere you want. And each one can be programmed with user-designated rules that are triggered using NFC.
Here’s how it works…
Once you place these stickers on a surface, say, your desk at work, you just tap your NFC-equipped phone on it (any NFC phone will work, not just Samsung devices). Then the phone will perform whatever task you’ve programmed into the sticker.
So for your work desk TecTile, you might want to have it make your phone enter silent mode, enable Wi-Fi, turn off your personal email notifications and open your schedule and work email. All at the same time. Then you could put one somewhere at home that turns sounds back on. (How many calls have you missed because you forgot to do this?)
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Or you could put a TecTile in your car that immediately opens up the map application, starts playing music through Pandora (NYSE: P) or Spotify, or automatically sends a text to your family that you’re on your way home. Or as Wired’s Nathan Olivarez-Giles thought of, a TecTile placed somewhere in your home could allow your kids to automatically text you that they’re home.
Retailers can use them, too, in order to give customers quick access to coupons or information about upcoming events.
What I like most about this technology is that it’s getting people to realize that NFC technology has uses far beyond mobile payments.
For instance, one commenter on Wired said, “I could stick one near my door or on my router that allows the phone to connect to the house’s Wi-Fi network (great for guests who I want to be able to connect)… Or one in the car on the dash, in case someone texts you and you want to tell them you are driving.”
And I’m all for another commenter’s idea: “Hopefully this FINALLY signals the end of QR codes.”
Now, it’s worth mentioning that Samsung’s idea isn’t exactly new. Sony (NYSE: SNE) announced its own version of the technology, called SmartTags, in January. But a set of four will set you back $20 on Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) right now. While you can pick up a set of five TecTiles for $15 on Samsung’s website.
Either way, the technology promises to help put NFC on the map. And as consumers realize the technology’s potential, more people will start wondering why their phone doesn’t come with NFC baked in.
That, in turn, should push more phonemakers to integrate the technology in upcoming handsets, putting us on the road to ubiquitous mobile payments faster than ever.