By Steven Gurley
NFC will change things.
Imagine a world in which copious amounts of information pertaining to just about anything you can touch is only a tap away. That's what NFC represents.
NFC is an acronym for the term Near Field Communications. It is a derivative of a 1940's technology called Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID. Both RFID and NFC are microchips that can transmit information wirelessly over very limited distances. RFID chips are designed to typically deliver information over a distance of not more than a few meters, while NFC chips are designed to transmit information over distances of not more than a few centimeters.
While both NFC and RFID share the same conceptual beginnings, each technology has evolved to serve different needs. RFID has evolved into a technology for delivering information about things to which the microchip is attached. NFC has evolved into a technology for delivering information pertaining to or of interest to the individual.
RFID is being used in commercial applications such as inventory tracking, toll tags, luggage tracking, meter reading, inventory warehousing, etc. NFC is being used in end-user applications such as building access cards, credit cards, personal identification cards, health cards, transportation ticketing, marketing promotions, etc.
Commercial-grade readers, such as inventory scanners and turnpike gantries, have traditionally been used to read RFID tags. Fixed readers, such as building access pads and credit card payment terminals, have been used to read NFC tags. Things, however, are changing.
A limited but rapidly growing number of smartphones are now being built with NFC readers integrated therein. This is creating applications for NFC not previously practical and allowing NFC tags to be attached to physical objects for the purpose of transmitting information about those objects to NFC-equipped smartphones.
Once on the smartphone, the NFC-delivered information can be used for a broad range of purposes, which includes, but is not limited to, marketing, commerce, payments, influence and entertainment. As more NFC-equipped smartphones are sold, more NFC tags will be deployed.
Given current smartphone growth projections (shown above), it very conceivable that tens of millions of NFC tags could be in place by the end of 2015. You could find them on everything from consumer products, commercial items, physical structures, to digital signage.
(Editor's note: Some digital out-of-home companies, like Canada's Newad and San Francisco-based Reach Media Group, already have begun deploying NFC across their DOOH networks.)
For more information how NFC works and the potential applications, read the latest white paper on the topic from DST and Mr. Gurley: "An Explanation of NFC with Implications for Digital Signage."
Gurley is responsible for all aspects of global marketing and new market development for Symon Communications, where he also has executive oversight of Symon's Creative Content and Content Subscription businesses.