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NFC tech has been cropping up on my radar a lot more recently, so I rocked along to the most recent Mobile Monday (if you’re not signed up and have an interest in mobile, sort yourself out) last week to see Proxama and o2 talk about the technology and its applications. There are tons of new technologies that are/were supposed to be the next big thing, but o2 ran an NFC trial recently and the outcome is definitely worth paying attention to.

The trial covered using a NFC equipped Nokia for transport (Oyster), payments (Barclaycard-Visa), access control (VIP entrance into the o2) and smart posters. The more interesting results are that 9/10 trialists were comfortable using the technology and 78% said they would like to use their phone to pay/travel in the future. People were more interested in using the Oyster functionality than the payments functionality, which makes sense. The Suica card in Japan works in the same way as the Oyster, and mobile operator Au has a Suica SIM card service that is tremendously popular. When it comes to the lower interest in the NFC payments, the MoMo panel believed people are only getting used to the chip & PIN system and have new tech fatigue, but I have to think that people are (at this stage) just not familiar enough using their phones for anything bar SMS and calls to be secure making payments on it just yet.

There’s no doubt in my mind that payments and transport will be the foundation that widespread NFC adoption will have to be built on, but the more interesting aspect from a creative advertising point of view is what can be done with smart posters. I’m a big believer that there are only two things that deliver real value in the digital world – utility and content. On the utility front, I like the idea of a person touching a smart poster for a concert with their phone and getting gig info & a click-through-to-buy-ticket option, which cuts out the middle step on the whole shortcode to WAP push that we’re used to. As far as content goes, you could have a NFC/Bluetooth combo where the user could download an exclusive music video or a trailer and passes it on to others virally.

Still, seeing as we won’t have a critical mass of NFC equipped phones till 2011-2013 at the earliest, this is all pipe dream stuff at the moment. It’s true that NFC won’t have the same problems getting adopted that say i-mode did, as o2 aren’t looking for exclusivity. However the panel at MoMo did make it clear that there are a large number of stakeholders (banks, operators, handset makers etc) to satisfy to get things going, as each party feels that the customer/user belongs to them. I think NFC will make it though, as there seems to be enough diverse high level players taking an interest at this early stage to help it progress.

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