NFC. To the regular person, it’s just a bunch of letters that probably don’t mean much. But what it offers – and how it has the potential to change our life – is very, very interesting.
NFC, which stands for Near Field Communication, marks the start of a world where we could be paying for everyday stuff, unlocking our doors and entering sports and music venues with a simple swipe of our phone.
In short, it’s a place where carrying cash and even credit cards could become a thing of the past.
Where did it come from?
NFC has been around for a while: in Japan, people have been using it since 2004. But with more big-name companies investing in the technology, it’s on the brink of going global.
Here’s how it works: an NFC phone has a radio frequency that can connect to other NFC devices that are brought within around 10cm of it. This device could be another phone, a swipe-pad or a payment device.
The nearest thing we have to it that’s in widespread use today is the Oyster card system on the London Underground, where people charge up their card then swipe each time they go through a turnstile – where the charge for their journey is deducted.
Will it become mainstream?
NFC payments becoming an everyday practice is some way off, but there are some really cool things that you can already do with an NFC phone.
Smart Tags are slowly making an appearance around the UK – at museums and on advertisements, for example.
An NFC phonecan read this Smart Tag, transforming the tag into useful information that’s downloaded on to your phone, so you can find out more about, say, a museum piece or a new product.
Other benefits of NFC.
NFC phones are also making it quicker and easier to share information. If you want to transfer something (a video or a document, for example) from one NFC phone to another, you just need to tap the phones together to transfer the thing you want to share.
The wider possibilities may seem like a crazy concept right now and clearly people will need more reassurance about personal security before NFC as a payment system really takes off.
But remember when we were first asked to enter PIN codes to pay for stuff? Or when Oyster cards came in?
They’ve now become a way of life and the same could be true of virtual wallets that live in our smartphone - thanks to NFC.