Near field communication, or NFC, arrived on the mobile scene with the hopes of making dynamic data transactions easier and more convenient. The technology makes it simple to share photos and videos with friends or pay for groceries faster than you can say “debit or credit.”
When NFC tags are used, our mobile devices are transformed into automated assistants ready to relieve us of these and other mundane tasks. With such promising benefits, why isn’t this technology seeing more use in the current mobile landscape and what can developers do to change it?
At its core, NFC is a wireless technology that facilitates the transfer of data without the usual overhead of Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. As such, devices equipped with the technology can seamlessly connect to, and communicate with, other similarly equipped devices by simply touching or being in close proximity — no manual connections or pairing needed. This represents the single greatest way NFC improves our mobile experience: sheer convenience.
Convenience is what drives most technological innovation, and as such, NFC is definitely a technology worth investing in for mobile app developers. According to a recent Evans Data survey, 31% of mobile developers currently incorporate NFC technology into their apps, with 45% planning to do so in the next year. With nearly half of the development community on board, what’s the holdup?
The NFC delay seems to stem from customer confusion. According to Harold Dimpel, CEO of SMS-based mobile payment service, mHITs, consumers aren’t quite sure what they stand to gain from the technology housed in their phones. This skepticism suggests that the general public requires more NFC success stories before they start embracing it.
Mobile app developers should take note of this lack of understanding and focus their efforts on producing solutions with a clearly defined purpose. If consumers know exactly what problem an app using NFC is solving, they’ll be more open to the technology as a whole.
Tagstand recently tackled the texting-and-driving epidemic with an NFC app called Drive Agent. The program works similar to current message-blocking apps like text-STAR and DriveScribe, but with a much easier setup process. Rather than manually selecting the app and choosing your settings by hand, Drive Agent allows users to switch their phone to the safe-driving mode by simply tapping it against the corresponding NFC tag. Once the driver reaches their destination, their texts and calls will be waiting for them.
As it stands, Android has the lion’s share of devices supporting NFC, most likely because of Apple’s history of favoring proprietary technologies over more open alternatives. Though Apple’s AirDrop fills a similar role in a Mac-centric environment, sooner or later iDevices must turn to a technology like NFC if they hope to communicate with non-Apple devices.
Until that day, it’s up to Android app developers to push NFC into mainstream use. With nine of the top ten smartphone suppliers producing NFC-enabled devices and their projected tenfold growth through 2017, now’s the time to get on board. By focusing on creative ways to leverage the convenience of NFC, such as automated file syncing or even NFC tag awareness, consumer adoption will grow and mobile innovation can thrive.