Day 2: #WTFNFC
Day 2 was a flurry of cold rain, people, and panels. Of the few panels that I attended (don’t forget to follow the action in real time on Twitter,) one was truly worth reading about. Actually, it wasn’t a panel- it was a core conversation. 40-60 attendees (including myself) having a moderated discussion around the current and future state of NFC technology.
If you’re a reader of your blog, you know that I’m a huge supporter of NFC technology and all that it entails. the prospect of being in a room full of like-minded individuals to talk about the significance of the technology was like a dream come true for me.
The room was full of influencers from all industries and geos: Finance, payment processors, marketers, hackers, social media people- all in one room to discuss the following:
“Ask the average American about NFC and they’ll tell you that the New York Giants are the champs. For all the musing the tech community loves to make about NFC, envisioning a future of smart posters and tap payments, the technology has yet to gain much mainstream interest. The current surveys and projections send us a mixed message that while NFC-enabled phones will dominate by 2014, at present most people just don’t care about mobile payments. NFC could end up a phenomenon or a flop, and it all depends on the moves of a few key players. Is this the next big innovation or just the next Q-Cat or Gizmondo? We’ll look at the Vegas odds for an NFC win in US, the players that could make it happen and the technical and psychological challenges that could keep Americans from ever knowing NFC isn’t something you need cleats and a cup for.”
We covered a host of sub-topics within an hour, and I wish the conversations could have gone on longer. Here are my main take aways from it:
- A majority of the perceived use for NFC rests in transaction enablement. However, many individuals in the panel asserted that there are nigh limitless applications for the technology. For it to become a viable payment method, card processors, banks, and payment services need to adopt common standards and ensure that payment is in fact as easy as tapping your phone on a sensor. Additional steps run the risk of making NFC payments more cumbersome than using a card.
- NFC will not become commonplace unless it addresses needs that affect many people. Then service providers will support it and tech providers will have to respond to the demand by integrating it. The successful adoption of NFC also relies on the willingness of technology producers to not only integrate them across their products, but to adopt a set of standards that ensure its universal functionality.
- Bluetooth technology is a great example of how stringent tech standards allowed for it to become widely adopted.
- The success of NFC in the US market may rest on whether or not Apple decides to integrate NFC into its next generation of product. That’s why there’s so much focus on transaction enablement. It’s easy and obvious to see how the simple, tactile action of tapping your device on something to pay instead of cards or cash can be a powerful enabler. However, the current iterations of NFC payments don’t quite lend themselves to that pure, simple experience that it needs to be in order for it to be adopted.
- There has been quite a bit of talk around NFC being the next QR Code. I find that statement to be reductive. QR codes are a marketing tool, only capable of pushing information in one direction. Does NFC technology have the ability to be used in a similar fashion? Sure. But the capabilities of NFC tech go far beyond being able to grab a hyper link to a website.
To give you a better sense of the discussion, here are some selected Tweets:
At the end of the day, the universal adoption of NFC would create a host of revenue opportunities. Whether or not that happens depends its ability to enhance and enrich the lives of many consumers at once.