NFC Forum Launches NFC Special Interest Groups

Mobile payment education, acceptance and implementation continues to accelerate, especially in the Near Field Communication (NFC) technology sector. Recent estimates from Deloitte Consulting indicated that approximately 200 million mobile devices equipped with NFC capabilities were shipped during 2012, and that another 300 million would be sold in 2013.

In an effort to drive NFC solution development, deployment and adoption, the NFC Forum recently launched segment-specific Special Interest Groups (SIGs). The groups were developed to connect leaders across verticals: Consumer electronics, health care, payment, retail, and transport. Together, these SIGs will collaborate to bring together top experts, NFC Forum members and solution developers to “share the business and technical needs of their industry, and to develop programs to support them,” according to a company press release.

The NFC Forum SIGs were unveiled during a webcast, titled: NFC Goes Vertical. Speakers included Debbie Arnold, NFC Forum Director, as well as executives from MasterCard, Sony, Continua Health Alliance, GS1 and the International Air Transport Association.


Though more people associate NFC with payments, according to Arnold, completing transactions via mobile wallets only is one of many possible use cases for the technology.

Arnold shared three additional actions NFC can enable:

  • Connecting information to mobile devices: Having an NFC card in a smartphone empowers consumers to integrate event or transportation ticketing information directly into their mobile devices. Users also can access pertinent information such as coupons, receipts, warranties and loyalty points in real time;
  • Reading tags: NFC allows mobile phones to synch with tags that hold important brand information. For example, a retailer can place tags that include coupons and detailed product information on in-store signage; and
  •  Making connections: If devices are equipped with NFC chips, they can “communicate” and share information with just a touch.

However, organizations must address several key issues before NFC can become more mainstream, according to the webinar. These include:

  • Making payment the core of other value-added services in markets such as retail, transport and health care;
  • Ensuring consumers feel secure and understand the benefits of using NFC-enabled phones for payment; and
  • Addressing questions regarding using NFC phones as readers.

Spotlighting NFC Use Cases In Retail

During the webcast, speakers uncovered a variety of use cases and benefits of NFC for organizations across verticals. Retail, however, is a key market for NFC, according to Arnold. While ease-of-payment is a main benefit, she uncovered other ways for retailers to leverage the technology throughout the in-store browsing and buying experience.

“Consumers can benefit from the short-range, two-way technology of NFC because they can store loyalty points, coupons and other benefits directly on their mobile phones and redeem them the same time a purchase is made,” Arnold said. “Retailers then can get information about consumers and update data more seamlessly.”

Additionally, marketing assets such as smart posters ― objects in or on which readable NFC tags have been placed ― create a more direct link between store content and consumers’ smartphones. Shoppers simply can scan a smart tag on a poster then access promotions and redeem offers in real time. Connecting the dots between in-store offers and mobile redemption processes also can empower merchants to capture a 360-degree view of brand campaigns and most importantly, shopper information.

Operational benefits of NFC also were spotlighted: “We’re seeing a lot of back-room improvements for retailers that use NFC,” reported Arnold, “from inventory tracking and control to checking employee time and attendance. These kinds of use cases are much broader in the retail environment than people have thought. Our goal is to make sure people understand that the benefits of NFC extend way beyond payment.”

Click here to access an on-demand version of the NFC Forum presentation. 

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