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Will Near Field Communication Change the World?
Will Near Field Communication Change the World?

By Ira Brodsky
January 6, 2013 10:31AM

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As tech titans and tech enthusiasts gather in Las Vegas this week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), there will be lots of talk about NFC or near field communication technology and how it could change the way we live and work, replacing plastic credit cards in today's smartphone-enabled world, thanks to NFC being so much more secure.
 



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NFC Is Here To Stay

The evidence that NFC is here to stay is mounting. With the exception of Apple, top manufacturers are integrating NFC with their smartphones. Leading point-of-sale terminal manufacturers are doing the same. And handset manufacturers are offering programmable passive tags that allow individuals and businesses to create their own NFC infrastructure. Samsung's TecTiles and Sony's SmartTags can be programmed to initiate tasks such as changing the phone's settings, placing a call, or pulling up a web page. The uses for programmable NFC tags are limited only by the imagination. Tags affixed to automobile dashboards can be used to turn Bluetooth on or off with just a tap. Tags installed on retail displays can direct shoppers' phones to web pages with additional product information.

The biggest threat to NFC-based payments is an alternative solution that catches on first. So far, no other solution has proved to be as convenient and reliable as NFC. There are apps that encode payment details as bar codes (or QR codes) displayed on phones' screen, but laser scanners sometimes have trouble reading them. Other solutions avoid sending payment details over the local link but are vulnerable to identity theft.

NFC's tap-and-go operation will appeal to consumers. Tap-and-go is a constant reminder that NFC works only at close range. Much like turning on a light switch, tap-and-go is deliberate and tactile--it gives users the sense that they determine when NFC is used. Consumers will need time to get used to tap-and-go operation, but once they do they will find it even easier and more natural than swiping a credit card through a card reader.

Identities Verified

And that's a good thing because there's not much of a future for plastic credit cards in a smartphone world. Embossed credit card numbers can be read and copied by anyone. NFC account numbers, expiration dates, and security codes are hidden from bystanders and even sales clerks. There are more secure ways to verify a user's identity using a smartphone compared to entering a four digit PIN on a checkout counter card reader. With NFC, one device can be your phone, keys, and wallet. Add a Bluetooth leash, and you'll never accidentally leave it behind. But don't think of it as a phone that stores credit card information--think of it as credit card with Web access, GPS locating, and more. (continued...)

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