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The Reality of Near Field Communication
By Seow Tein Hee - on 22 Jun 2011, 5:25pm

If you've heard about near-field communication (NFC), chances are, your first encounter with it would be from the Google / Samsung Nexus S which was launched in the earlier part of 2011. NFC presents a new approach towards mobile payment and data transfer between devices that are armed with an NFC chip. But in reality, there hasn't been a wide spread adoption for this wireless technology.

At CommunicAsia 2011, NFC piqued our interest with a few interesting demonstrations on hand. In our coverage of the NTT Docomo booth, we've heard how the Japanese company is hoping to create a global standard for NFC to have one mobile device being able to access NFC services, regardless of location. This concept, which is still far from bearing any fruition, is the first step towards unifying mobile communications across borders. While devices that follow this concept are by far rare and few, we've seen a steady growth of devices sporting NFC capabilities from the likes of the Google Nexus S and RIM's BlackBerry Bold 9900.

Mobile payment services using NFC, if standardized, could mean a world of difference when you travel with just a mobile phone, to gain access to anything, anywhere, anytime.

In particular, the Nexus S will seek to complement its hardware offering with Google's mobile payment service, Google Wallet. Utilizing an app that stores your credit card data and adopts NFC to transmit its data wirelessly, Google Wallet presents the evolution of how payment is conducted once by cash, to its present credit card driven state and perhaps, into the clouds.

In the very near future, perhaps a few months down the road, we will see some real-world application that matters to the consumer. Nokia's return to CommunicAsia created a huge impact for its first MeeGo device, the Nokia N9. While the spotlight was shining brightly on the MeeGo smartphone, its accompanying NFC-ready accessories, the Nokia Play 360 Bluetooth speakers and Nokia Wireless Music Receiver showcase the practical aspect of NFC technology. A simple tap is all it takes to pair your Bluetooth accessories to the mobile device, sparing you the hassle of entering a passcode or waiting for the device to be detected.

Wireless music receivers using Bluetooth technology is a common sight. NFC pairing, however, is relatively unheard of and Nokia's Wireless Music Receiver showcases the practicality and ease of NFC pairing with just a tap.

So why does NFC matter to the consumer? Convenience is the key focus. Products such as the Nokia N9 and its NFC-enabled accessories will simplify the way we interact with our devices. Like all things, it's all about the supply and demand. While NFC hasn't seen a significantly strong demand to warrant a strong supply, NFC services such as Google Wallet and NTT Docomo's foray into global standardization for NFC protocols will undoubtedly create the need for it.

Thinking back on how GPS capabilities were once unheard of on mobile devices, NFC could be the next must-have feature for smartphones that wish to stay on top of the game.

Seow Tein Hee

Seow Tein Hee / Former Associate Editor

Attuned to the latest mobile technology and news, Tein Hee is always on the lookout for innovation and creativity in the mobile industry.