A chap called Jordan Cook over at TechCrunch has published an article with the title ‘NFC is great, but mobile payments solve a problem that doesn’t exist’. In the article Mr Cook indicates that while NFC could be a useful addition to mobile devices, he suggests that there doesn’t appear to be any significant advantage to either retailers or consumers for the investment in the technology required for the ubiquitous implementation of NFC
NFC, or Near Field Communication is the short distance radio technology, much like Bluetooth but quicker at establishing a connection, that would allow users to use their mobile device as an eWallet and pay for items using, for example, a swipe of their iPhone, should the next generation device from Apple actually include NFC capability.
In the article, Mr Cook suggests that the motion of actually paying for an item with NFC is identical to that of removing a card from your wallet or purse and swiping it, and therefore there is no practical advantage to adopting NFC. He also suggests that until a phone can be used as an ID, the wallet will always remain. Finally, he suggests that all merchants would have to sign up to NFC to allow the wallet to become obsolete.
So, these statements do indeed have some elements of truth but it seems that Mr Cook has underestimated the potential of NFC and that there are, indeed, two major problems that could be solved by NFC. He just hasn’t seen them. I thought of these around two minutes after reading the article so I’m pretty sure that there’s a large amount of applications that I haven’t thought of either.
The first problem it solves is that of spending amounts. If NFC were tied to an appropriately constructed app on the iPhone, then users could keep a very close watch on exactly how much they were spending and how much money was left in their bank account. The current method of handing over some plastic when you have to pay for something gives you no feedback on how much is left in your bank account or how much is being put on a credit card. Imagine an app which gives you a live stream of your bank balance as you spend. That’s the first problem that could be solved. Overspending.
The second problem it solves is that of stupid little paper receipts. As well as actually transferring funds with NFC, electronic receipts could be fed back to the smartphone, and stored in an app or synced back via iCloud to all devices. Everything is stored, nothing is lost, no paper, no problem.
Yes, this would take some implementation, both by retailers and smartphone manufacturers, but to say that NFC solves problems that don’t exist is inaccurate.