Wearable tech might be the hot-topic of the year but there is another industry on the cusp of tech sector disruption. Mobile payments and NFC (Near Field Communication) technology are set to remove the friction in our lives, solving everything from micro-transactions through to big business advertising.

From search to purchase

NFC refers to physical tech that transfers small amounts of data wirelessly between two devices in proximity and though a relatively new technology, the retail sector has been an early adopter, promoting mobile transactions to drive sales like never before.

Touchless transactions appeared on the scene through Visa Paywave and Mastercard Paypass and soon enough, cards will become obsolete altogether thanks to concepts like Paypal Beacon and Google Wallet allowing us to store our finances, credit details and loyalty apps in one place.

Imagine: you tap your phone at the checkout as it purchases & applies discounts and rewards in a hot second.

Or in the case of Paypal Beacon, paying for an item wirelessly via an in-store Bluetooth transmitter. Business analysts predict that services like these will remove Point of Sale (PoS) systems altogether, with your smart device acting as a direct merchant between customers and merchants.

Changing the way we pay

NFC tags will also improve the customer experience, from item recognition to user experience. For example, your phone could immediately identify gluten-free items in a grocery store, or find the right size of jeans in a clothes store. For stores that offer free (though hard-to-access) WiFi, InstaWiFi have developed stickers that can be scanned for instant access. Though subject to government regulations, the future holds even more potential for the retail space when combined with handset compatibility.

From transport to non-profits

Beyond the retail space, small business of all types will be using NFC for a wide variety of applications, both on and off our phones. Imagine a bus stop poster that can push personalised discounts to the best-suited customers, or a clothing billboard that can push a voucher just for taking a photo of it. An in-magazine ad for a new app could push a demo trial right to your phone, or a cinema could push a movie voucher at the end of a screening.

We’ve already seen NFC tech implemented in transport worldwide, thanks to systems like London’s Oyster card and Sydney’s Opal offering contactless ticketing. Soon, this tech will be installed in your smartphones, removing the need for an external card altogether. There could even be NFC tags placed on your in-flight luggage, so a lost bag is easily traceable.

Non-Profit organisations have also found success in this tech frontier. UNICEF’s NFC sticker project saw their annual Hong Kong sticker fundraiser turn every donator into a brand ambassador, with NFC phones able to scan the printed sticker and make a donation directly from their phone. It saw volunteers increase by 30x their typical donation, with every sticker encouraging 6 more donations than normal.

Business managers will also find value in NFC options for staff. Employers will be able to check into their office or visiting locations, not to mention streamlining of break times, improving office efficiency and ensuring customer service needs are being met. Even your business card could benefit, with the power to unlock an entire digital portfolio when placed near a compatible device.

Frictionless future

The realm of NFC and m-payments extend far beyond business, but the applications are limitless.
Picture this:

Sensing you approach, your car personalises seat height and playlist before your (virtual) key’s in the ignition.

You will fill up at the petrol station and pay via Bluetooth directly from your phone, whilst you book the evening’s entertainment tickets on the way. It will even take the art of the mixtape next level, with Sharetapes providing blank, credit-card sized tapes that can be programmed to a custom playlist (from Spotify/YouTube) when placed near a phone. You may never lose your wallet again thanks to Tile, a Selfstarter success story that uses tiny bluetooth-enabled tiles to track your essential goods (that is, if wallets even exist in the future).

Coupled with mobile payment methods like Paypal, NFC tech will allow small businesses to streamline their experiences and learn more about their audiences — where they shop, why they shop, and what they need to shop more. For consumers, it means quicker payments, more choice and more savings via personalised discount programs.

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Stuart McDonald

Performance Media Manager

Stuart McDonald,
Performance Media Manager

Stuart is Red Wire’s resident devices expert. Android enthusiast, Virtual Reality road tester, and SnapChatter, Stuart is widely acknowledged to be the ‘DJ Khaled of Data.’