We mostly hear about near-field communication as it relates to mobile payments. Well, here at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, mobile payments are only one side of the NFC chip. I took a walk around the show floor and found 15 different ways companies are showing of NFC technology--very few of which have anything to do with spending money.
The NFC experience
At Mobile World Congress, the GSMA is taking NFC to the max--not only did the mobile trade group partner with Sony to give away thousands of NFC-enabled Sony Xperia T smartphones, but there are huge NFC posters situated all around the venue. MWC participants can simply tap different parts of the poster to discover event, venue, city, and restaurant information.
Tap for Airplane Mode
Switching your mobile device to Airplane Mode means fumbling for the settings screen. Soon it will be no problem, however, if airlines implement this NFC-enabled poster that passengers can tap to switch modes.
A content gumball machine
Razorfish's gumball machine dispenses content, not candy. Just insert a coin, turn the crank, and tap your NFC-enabled device to get music, videos, apps, e-books, or coupons delivered directly to your phone.
Lost your luggage? Assuming it wasn't stolen, Tag-a-Bag can help. This NFC-enabled baggage tag lets travelers passively track their bags. If a bag is lost and then found by someone with an NFC-enabled device, that person can tap against the tag to find out the owner's information and send a message (along with location) to the owner's phone.
Tap for music
Sony's SBH-20 wireless Bluetooth headset connects to your NFC-enabled music device with just a tap. Tapping against the headset starts up the Bluetooth link. (It's just a little faster than manually setting up Bluetooth.) There goes one excuse for not jogging.
The new eco-friendly business card
NFC actually makes a lot of sense for business cards. Just tap a card with your NFC-enabled device to transmit contact information, website addresses, or other business-related info. Think of the paper we'll save!
Wireless file transfer
This is another example of Sony using NFC to start up a Bluetooth link. Sony's LLS-201 Personal Content Station links your phone and your computer wirelessly, via Bluetooth, for content syncing. Just drop your phone on the Station's surface, and photos, files, and contacts will be automatically updated.
Tap for info
This is still the most common use of NFC I've seen at Mobile World Congress. It seems like just about every company has some sort of little NFC hotspot that you can tap for information, such as a virtual press kit or advertisement.
Your own hotspots
If you want to set up your home, car, or office MWC-style, you can pick up these personal hotspots from Tagster. Tagster offers packets of six "hotdot NFC stickers" that you can stick around your house, as well as a free app so you can program the stickers. For example, you can put a sticker in your car and program it to automatically open a navigation app when you tap, or you can put a sticker on your bedside table, and program it to turn your phone's sound off with a tap.
This just goes to show that, seriously, you can put NFC in anything. An NFC-enabled pen is probably most useful as a business tool--they can serve as high-tech business cards. But, of course, you could also use NFC in a pen to label what's yours...you know, in case someone likes to steal your pens.
This NFC-enabled poster is actually kind of cool. Presented by Flous, a digital payment system designed by Etisalat (a UAE telco), this shopping poster might show up in a train station or airport. If a Flous users sees something they like, want, or need, they can just tap the poster to buy it and have it sent directly to their home, or held for pickup at the nearest store. Sounds like a great idea for forgetful commuters.
NFC Rice Crispies
Yep--like I said, you can put NFC in anything. This NFC-enabled cereal box takes you to Rice Crispies's recipe website when you tap your phone against it. I guess that's pretty useful if you're in the middle of making Rice Crispies treats and you forget how much butter you need (and you have your phone handy).
These shoes have NFC chips built into the sole (near the heel). Tap your phone against the heel of the shoe, and you'll get information about the shoe itself. Necessary? Perhaps not. Then again, if you can program your shoe's NFC chip, that might be kind of cool. What's the latest news from TechHive? Hold on, let me just tap my phone against my shoe!
Portable NFC music
Sony's SRS-BTV5 ultra-portable wireless speaker uses NFC to connect to your mobile device. This seems a little more reasonable than the headphones, because more than one person might want to quickly connect to a portable speaker (headphones, not so much).
Some airlines already let you present your boarding pass on your mobile device's screen. But this NFC-enabled ticket gate takes it to the next level. Assuming this type of technology passes muster with the TSA, boarding a plane will soon be a breeze.
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