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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

In addition to these efforts, McCamon says he expects the NFC Forum to team up with existing wireless technologies that have grown in use throughout the past decade or two. Bluetooth technology, he notes, has already been available for 20 years, with Wi-Fi about 20 years as well, and NFC now reaching its 15th birthday. "What we need to do," he states, "is work together across all these three technologies to improve user experience. The unique value NFC has is the tap-to-authenticate feature. So we want to hone in on making that a really great experience," which could augment other solutions that use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or both technologies.

"What we have today is a fragmented user experience marketplace," McCamon reports. These mature technologies can coexist, he says, in order to further improve the consumer experience. "There are some logical opportunities for me uniquely to build some bridges," he states, since he already has experience with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies.

As wireless technology is introduced, McCamon explains, it needs to follow a path that can lead to universal adoption, or a lack of traction. The systems being developed reach a level of maturity at which commercializing solutions and building use cases becomes the challenge, he says, adding, "I see NFC as a technology with immense potential."

The technology is currently in the hands of most people who carry a smartphone, and it is more commonly deployed in some countries than in others. McCamon cites Japan, where those who ride trains are accustomed to tapping their phones against a reader to pay for each ride. Deployments like this are rare in North America, however. That, in part, is due to American consumers' behaviors being centered around credit cards.

The NFC Forum wants to see consumers accept the "tapping" process without needing to know much about the technology behind each tap. "If I know there's a logo and, if I tap my phone, it works, that's all I need," McCamon says. Whether or not shoppers are familiar with the acronym "NFC" is beside the point, he adds. "Success looks like my neighbors understanding how secure and convenient it is to tap their phone against a logo."

Down the road, McCamon anticipates finding ways in which to help people in the developing world with NFC technology use. Smartphone usage has become commonplace in the developing world, and companies are beginning to take advantage of the intelligence built into phones to bring services to remote locations. "If you can create use cases that are useful to people in India and China and the third world," McCamon maintains, "you can improve lives for millions." At this point in his career, he says, he takes on a project because he believes he can provide help. "I don't do things because I have to."

According to a 2019 study conducted by ABI Research, there will be 10 billion NFC tags n 2023, growing from four billion last year. In most cases, the analyst company found, the technology is being rolled out for payment and ticketing applications.

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