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NFC Forum Aims to Popularize Taps

The organization's new executive director intends to help the Near Field Communication industry make the technology consistently reliable and commonplace, with a growth plan similar to that of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, so that users will recognize a logo and tap it without needing to know anything about NFC.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 02, 2019

The NFC Forum is taking advantage of the presence of Near Field Communication (NFC) readers in handsets and other devices—totaling two billion this year alone—to launch initiatives that expand use cases and improve the user experience. The association's newly appointed executive director, Mike McCamon, brings a history of accomplishing the same for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies. His goal, he says, is to make NFC something people simply use.

McCamon, formerly the executive director of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, has guided wireless technology growth at numerous companies, including Apple, Intel and Iomega (Lenovo), as well as several startups. He was also the executive officer at global non-profit organization Water.org. McCamon ran for a senate seat in his home state of Kansas, then retired, and has now come out of retirement to help promote NFC.

Mike McCamon
McCamon comes to the NFC Forum after a 15-year hiatus from the wireless space. "I was very involved until 2004 or 2005," he says, before became involving in startups, non-profit organizations and politics. These days, he sees a predictable trajectory for NFC that he says looks familiar. In his new role, McCamon will offer strategic planning and direction, membership development, budgeting and evangelism in a way he has done before for Bluetooth technology. Part of his effort is a set of 2020 initiatives prioritized around the user experience.

This is a shift for the NFC Forum, which has previously focused more on specifications and business-to-business efforts. The specification work will continue, with several other goals alongside those efforts. "There's a lot of work to be done around commercialization of the technology apart from specifications," McCamon states. "I look at NFC as a technology with an immense amount of potential, way beyond payments and way beyond transit." The technology is already proven, and now it just needs to go over what he describes as the "tipping point." To accomplish this goal, he has laid out four goals.

"The number-one goal is to make sure NFC delivers a consistently positive user experience," McCamon says. That will require NFC Forum members to undertake some research, examining consumer understanding and behavior around NFC technology, as well as work with brands that might offer NFC functionality in their products. There had been interest in NFC use from some consumer brands several years ago, he notes, but it hasn't yet gained significant momentum, so the NFC Forum will work with those companies to understand technology-deployment challenges and ways to move beyond them.

The organization's second goal is to improve the visual identifier for NFC scans. That means making the user experience easier and more rewarding. Currently, consumers often do not know what the NFC "tap here" logo means, which inhibits use. To address this issue, the NFC Forum plans to work with manufacturers to make the logo identifying each NFC tag, as well as its placement, more universal so that users can always find the NFC logo in order to tap their phone or card. McCamon says the NFC Forum will partner with companies to agree on visual cues to make sure the consumer marketplace knows where to tap so as to receive a response.

Third, the NFC Forum intends to further educate the marketplace, meaning those businesses building NFC into their devices or deploying those systems. Webinars and white papers will be part of that strategy, McCamon says. Finally, the organization will work on creating more specifications to enable the diversification of use cases. Enhancements to existing specs are being released this month, he adds, while other significant new specs can be expected in 2020.

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