No turning back – NFC enabled phones to exceed 500 million by 2014

In recent times we have seen the emergence of some ‘niche’ payment and data transfer platforms or apps for smartphones but it’s widely recognised that the breakthrough technology is unequivocally NFC. It’s the most scalable and secure of all mobile payment and wireless data transfer technologies and NFC represents a paradigm shift in how we live – making everyday activities easier and more convenient. Using an NFC enabled smartphone will make accessing new media and content not just truly interactive but much more intuitive; make it easier to pay for things; easier to discover and share information and much easier to use public transport.
Keys, access cards, tickets, business cards, plastic loyalty cards and payment cards could easily disappear – replaced by your NFC enabled smartphone. In fact it’s been said that the myriad applications for NFC are limited only by imagination!

The only thing that has held NFC back is critical mass – the number of NFC enabled smart phones in use. But now things really are changing with mobile manufacturers driving the push for NFC. A new report by ABI Research shows that the number of NFC-enabled devices hitting the market will greatly increase by 2014. This latest research indicates that at least 285 million NFC-enabled mobile and consumer electronics devices will ship in 2013 and that number will increase to over 500 million in 2014.

And so we can now say with confidence that this new world where people use their phones in a different way is upon us and not simply guided by NFC driven mobile payments. In reality the NFC market is shifting from payment applications and it’s estimated that by 2016 70% of NFC tag shipments will end up being used in marketing and promotional applications. This trend has coined a new term – proximity marketing – with smart posters and smart stickers at the forefront of these opportunities. Smart posters are just that – no longer an inanimate advertisement but interactive media that communicates with an NFC enabled smartphone. A smart poster can be pre-programmed with a range of data or information that will transfer instantly to an NFC enabled smartphone with a simple fast “tap” of the sticker. So when the user taps the poster a browser opens up with a video, coupon, list of stores, directions to nearest store, special offer or whatever promotional offer a campaign manager chooses to deploy.

Proximity marketing opportunities will expand further now that smart stickers are also available. Small and compact, about the size of a beer mat, they incorporate an NFC chip. Once that chip is pre-programmed, anyone with an NFC enabled smartphone can retrieve information from the smart sticker with a simple swipe or tap of the sticker.

As a phone can read an NFC tag through glass or acrylic any business can stay ‘open’ 24-7 allowing consumers to download product information, a restaurant menu, voucher relating to a shop window display, call a cab, retrieve details of a property and so on – any time of the day or night.

When you think about you’re connecting chips; chips embedded in devices. It’s this simplicity and ease of connectivity that makes NFC the technology that will make people wonder, in years to come, how they ever lived without it. No services to sign up; no pins or passwords to enter. Just tap, connect, receive and share information, offline and online. When a smartphone becomes an NFC reader the possibilities really are endless.

Mark Bartlett – Signbox Ltd