Near Field Community

I was shopping yesterday and had my first interaction with an NFC enabled store kiosk. My mobile has NFC and I purchased some writable tags a few months ago to experiment with. It’s useful to me to have a tag on my wireless charger that puts the mobile into sleep mode when I set it there. But I had yet to have a retailer avail themselves of this.
QR codes offer some of this promise and I use the automatic function on my mobile camera that captures and parses QR. But NFC is a step beyond containing a small parcel of code that can be deployed for good or for evil. In this case a Sony wireless speaker offered me more information. By simply tapping it with my device I was able to browse specs and have the speaker’s amazing proposition demonstrated to me. It provided a link so I could download the app to control the speaker – and if I wasn’t running windows Phone 8 may have been able to actually try that part.
The point is deeper though and seeing the affordances offered by this richer shopping experience look to being able to accomplish a greater variety of tasks in the future in a self-service on-demand fashion. Can this be the answer to in bookstore browsing for eBooks? I really want to reward the bookseller for stocking books I can touch and I need these to browse – but I read eBooks. What if I could tap a book in a shop and this triggered a brokered buy request with Amazon sending the stockist a 10% fee for enabling the sale?
There’s something to the physical interaction and how it plays towards the increasingly disembodied nature of online retailing. This is all coming back to the post I made earlier on showrooming.

29 thoughts on “Near Field Community”

  1. I hadn’t considered some of those uses for NFC. When I first heard about it i thought it would be useful to automatically enable a GPS app on a phone when you put it in a holder in your car, or to enable/disable wifi by tapping it off a surface, but there’s obviously a lot more to it that that. I would certainly prefer products to advertise themselves via NFC than be hassled by shop assistants, although I doubt technology will eradicate them anytime soon.

  2. I have to say that I have heard a lot about NFC over the last while – and I like to think that I stay on top of things technologically speaking, but I have yet to see any kiosks in shops here. There have been ads on English channels for the last number of months so when I saw them I thought we would eventually get the technology here (as we typically always follow the UK) but I have to see anything here like that. And I would be very interested in using it too. I don’t like carrying cash with me so it would be the ideal thing.

    And I did actually see a news article recently saying that a certain chain was going to make their tills NFC ready, but I can’t remember the name of the chain – Centra, Mace, Spar, who knows!

    And reading Shawn’s comments above, it certainly seems that my ideas for the application of NFC were somewhat limited. I think that would be a good idea, especially in entertainment stores and technology stores where people can try out the latest developments themselves. I do have a QR scanner on my phone but I rarely use it – sometimes I think I’d look like a bit of an idiot holding my phone up to a barcode, and I’ve even seen the code on billboards, how are you supposed to scan that? Do you need to be a certain distance from the code to read it correctly? In saying that, they probably wouldn’t put them up there if they couldn’t be scanned. OK, enough said.

  3. Hi, NFC payments are going to become mainstream here very soon. There are lots of reasons for this, but the main one in my mind is that contactless payments further distance your spending of ‘real’ money from you emotions. Lots of studies have been done on this and I’ve actually done a the research assignment for CS1101 on this very topic. Check it out here:

    There are lots of other uses for NFC chips on devices too though. BMW and other car manufacturers are currently using NFC enabled keys to open and start cars. People are looking to use NFC/QR tags to help with virtual tours/information in cities and other tourist attractions. Just think, tap you phone here at this sign beside Jim Larken and then the phone pops open on the corresponding webpage to display info/photos and even play audio.

    Then there are the more nefarious uses of the NFC chips in smartphones:

    1. Hmmm, I’m less than convinced by the imminence of NFC. Its use at standard card terminals has been mooted for at least the last 2 years, but I’ve only been offered an NFC transaction once in a shop to date, and the retailer seemed confused and hesitant about the process.

      NFC functionality in debit and cards, and app readiness on our phones does not necessarily equal retailer/ card device readiness, or consumer comfort with the process.

  4. I am not familiar with NFC, Joe – I’ll have to sit down with a
    cuppa and read your assignment. But it sounds very interesting, it seems to be
    a similar idea to the QR scanner codes. But as Barry said I never used them as
    I would feel like a numpty standing in a public place looking like I’m taking a
    very slow picture of some random wall or advert. But a quick tap on a product
    in a shop seems a lot easier. And people love using their phones for different
    uses. Is NFC similar to the contactless payments that we can now make with our
    bank cards e.g. I saw Marks and Sparks have those machines in the food hall,
    for purchases under €15. I agree there should be a very low transaction amount
    as simply scanning your phone for purchases seems very dangerous for both shopaholics
    and for security reasons.

  5. I like the idea of the customer/shop/Amazon reward process.

    Us humans are born with an innate sense of and necessity for the tangible. Whether it be food, literature, music, sports, social, shopping, education etc., the ‘real’ or ‘physical experience’ is (still!) a significant measure of personal enlightenment.

    With regard to NFC, the smart-phone is essentially the conduit or physical extension of the person, provided that the device is compatible, through which the NFC information/application is accessed. The alternative being… engage with another human being!

  6. This is quite an interesting post regarding the use of NFC… My boyfriend is an enthusiastic e-book reader but he really misses the experience of going shopping to different book shops while I do my fashion shopping…

    For him as an e-book reader there is very little to do in shopping centers anymore 🙂 I think this could have the potential to be the bridge between the e-books seller and the book store.

  7. I haven’t heard much about this at all, but then I did only just move to the world of smart phones this weekends (and I don’t like it). I don’t know, I’m really hesitant about all this, similar to the bank card scanning thing, I really don’t want it to be easier for me to spend money. We are constantly bombarded by advertising, I don’t want an enhanced shopping experience, I don’t want to have to download more cr*p on my phone or laptop and agree to more T&C’s that I haven’t read. Ahhh! I know that studying IS I should be embracing all that is technological, but I can’t, by the sounds of all this our whole lives will be stored on our Smart Phones, and it’s not just a fear that someone may steal our phone, we’re allowing companines access to all of this infomation freely.

    1. Great points Steph. Far from being a Luddite, I too have concerns with the so-called ‘enhancement’ aspect. It is important that we, the consumer, think for ourselves and not be ‘encouraged’ to make choices solely based on profile/purchase history algorithms. As for the T&Cs – why don’t we read them? Has anyone actually read (before agreeing to) cookie policies on websites? The information is there in black and white but what percentage of users read the terms and conditions before clicking agree/accept?

      Irish Cookie Law –
      What Are Cookies? –

      1. nice links Gav. I didn’t know much about Cookies so it was good to get some background. ..
        I agree with Steph too- it’s a pain being pestered to buy stuff I don’t
        want, with money I don’t have. Much like the suggestions on facebook/ amazon etc for tat they think I’d like? Well, no actually, I don’t like or want it and in fact, it usually annoys me just what a skewed view of me these supposedly sophisticated cookies have of me.
        I do think there could be some benefits though with NFC but only if it prompted you about stuff you actually wanted. Imagine how great it would be if you went into a shop, and your phone gave you the gentlest of nudges to say, ‘hey – you know that book/record/shirt/shoes/roller-blades you’ve always wanted, they have it here and it’s even cheaper than online… Go on, spoil yourself – you’ve had a hard day…’
        That, to me, would be pretty awesome, but the reality I imagine, would be very intrusive and unnecessary, like the modern equivalent of a guy in a sandwich board trying to hock stuff as you wander around.

    2. Steph, I totally agree with your comments and Gavin would probably call me a Luddite, seen the speed at which I generally adopt new technologies! however I have to admit that I have had a smartphone for a couple of years now and yes I rely quite a lot on it …I’d be curious to know if anything has changed since you got your smartphone 3 months ago…Do you still really dislike it?

      In terms of NFC and e-payments in general, I am completely anachronistic having decided only a few months ago to pay more with cash than cards (except for the Leapcard!) as I think cash allows for a more realistic relationship with money…you see, feel, touch what you spend and often that makes you think twice.

      1. Hey Deborah,
        The phone is going good; it had its pros and cons; I was addicted to Twitter for a while ( I blame Shawn) but its been great to constantly have access to everything; but in the same instance you’re constantly on and available i.e you get a notification mail at 9pm on a Friday night…
        I don’t think I’ll ever use NFC, I hope I don’t because I’m prime target for that type of spending.
        On another note I love the phone except for my chunky fingers that are making me seem illiterate, I miss buttons 🙁
        Happy New Year

  8. I have had a NCF enabled phone for the past year now and have never had a chance to purchase an item, It does not seem to have taken off yet in Ireland and if shops do support it they are not advertising it very well. If more phones incorperate nfc and services like google wallet take off it could really change how we pay for goods.Altough it has taken a long time for chip and been to be fully introduced and is still not standard in all european countries I guess we will just have to wait and see. If anyone is looking to test out their new contactless bank card the Science Gallery has a Contactless terminal.
    Near Field communication within wristbands has been getting a lot of traction at festivals around europe this year. RFID wristbands have been reported to already made a billion cashless transactions. The wristband has a Radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip in it and is used for cashless payments at the bar and other stalls. You can have your wristband topped online or at a kiosk at the start of the day. It is also used to gain access to different areas through a turnstile reducing the need for security checks and long queues.Isle of Wight festival goers get contactless tickets and payments -

    One issue I find with these is what if you loose it there is nothing stopping someone else from using your band as there is no pin associated with them.

  9. This is my third attempt to post a comment, stymied by by bad (country)
    internet and the site posting facility.

    On subject, BOI are issuing similar technology with their VISA
    Debit cards offering contactless payments, this is based on radio-frequency identification
    (RFID). The banks and companies are
    selling this as something to make your life easier moving to a
    cashless society but as I work in supplying solutions to the sector I think you
    may find its just a way of increasing their own revenue by increasing
    transaction volume. Transaction volume is one of the income streams from current account holders, i.e. for 1 ATM
    withdrawal of €50 you can get lunch (drink and sandwich) for the week and the
    bank can only charge you once, if you
    use contactless or NFC they get to charge you 10 times. This is only one of the
    uses but its an impact people may not be aware of. Other uses could give marketing companies a
    lot of data on your movements and habits/interest.

    Gary Crowe

    1. The most blatant / transactional version of the whole marketing behaviour thing I’ve seen is the Reep app. I guess they’re being fairly straightforward about it – they’ll pay you for telling them what you’re buying. Up to this point there would have been two separate views available of marketing information – payment oriented (restricted to the card provider), and retailer-oriented (restricted to a single chain, or group of affiliated stores). I guess it would be interesting to see whether the information they gather is representative, or whether what they’re seeing only applied to a single self-selecting group. I suppose they reckon it’s worthwhile.

      Anyway, I’ve only used contactless payments once. I ended up waving my card all over the till like an oul’ wan trying to figure out a Wii game. I’ll stick to cash, if only just to save myself embarrassment.

    2. Gary – at the moment, contactless transactions are free.. and will remain so for a while I think. But the removal of fee-bundling by the BOI I guess makes this a moot point – they didnt leave Laser and embrace Visa just to make your life easier and make you feel like you live in the 21st century!! But contactless is great and fast – there is the counter argument on fees that service aint free but thats for another forum!

  10. Going by my average commute into work everyday E-books are definitely
    winning out – but as Gavin mentioned earlier – that doesn’t mean it’s
    terminal. Books – much like vinyl – will outlive it’s alleged digital
    death because some people just like actual books. But then, in the end,
    does it not become a fashion or lifestyle choice? I’d like if the NFC
    technology could be used to sell this experience and enhance this
    experience, rather than compete with it. To me, there’s no escaping the fact that these retail elements – books, music, dvd’s etc – are in decline. Certainly, the idea of a real shop getting a commission is great, does it make it worthwhile in rent, utilities and wages to stock something you are enabling someone to buy elsewhere?

    Beyond that, while the use of NFC as a payment method has appeal – I already have credit/debit cards that does pretty much the same job. And maybe that’s a problem with the uptake of the tech? I personally don’t see much in the way of additional benefit – and as Gary said, it sounds more about increasing the banks revenue. While the Barclay’s(?) ad a while ago of the guy zooming around the city on his roller-coaster was great – the depressing reality of shopping is, after rummaging around your pockets/bag for your new phone wallet, you can’t really zip off because a) you’ve got to wait for your receipt and b) do the loyalty club-card waltz, so you are zooming nowhere. So where is the real benefit? Maybe it they added a generic loyalty clubcard chip, people would be all over it.

    Then there’s the security. Both online and personal. Your phone now becomes even more attractive to thieves. While at the moment, if your nimble on your toes, you might still be able to get away from your average mugger as they mull over taking you phone, wallet, ipod, ipad or laptop etc, if you’re phone becomes a one stop shop – they are simply just having it. And you can’t even call the police afterwards. Or get a taxi home.

  11. Saw this article ‘Fear of Showrooming Fades’ from the Wall
    Street Journal today (courtesy of @jackschofield) which shows how a retail
    superstore – Best Buy – is attempting to tackle showrooming by offering to
    match online prices and seeking to attract people into their “showrooms”.
    (There’s a video clip within it which summarises it).

    It remains to be seen to what extent bricks-and-mortar business
    will be able to compete on price but it is good to see that at least they are
    beginning to accept the challenge head on (albeit due to necessity) and it will
    interesting to see how new sales models incorporating NFC as suggested on
    earlier posts will evolve.

  12. NFC is not something I’ve really thought about and wouldn’t
    be rushing out to use it due to implied security issues and for one as I used
    to be pretty bad at losing phones and wallets, I’d rather not have another
    possible way for a third party to get access to my hard earned cash and as for
    using NFC for opening car doors?

    On paper it sound like a good idea but with the economy the way it is and spending waning I don’t see retail investing in the infrastructure to accommodate the technology anytime soon especially in Ireland.

    But in an ideal world the use of this technology for purchasing goods and services would make it a more rewarding interaction. The ability to get further information on a product you are looking at without going to a shop assistant rewarding a store for a transaction made on Amazon would be a really novel idea.

    I refrain from buying goods on line as I like to see them, try them on for size first before purchasing except for books which I usually look at in the store first before going to Amazon….point proven.

    1. beginning to sound like a visa debit advocate but the fraud potential is capped at €15 per tx or €45 max – just to mitigate it a bit. The NFC on phones now – that makes me jittery.

  13. When i went to the Olympics last year i made sure i had a visa card(only accepted in the Olympic village) with Bank of Ireland, which where also rolling out NFC on the Cards. I had great delight going up to the Coke vending machines and waving my NFC enabled visa card and it debiting it from account. I really don’t like carrying cash anymore and i find it a handy move to the future. Unfortunately Irish retailers are extremely slow to change, these changes can really only be adopted by large department stores, fast food outlets and supermarkets. Try NFC Taginfo app on Android, it allows your NFC phone pick up the NFC chip and give a read out

  14. In the interest of research for this blog I used the NFC contactless POS terminal in Marks and Spencers. My bill was just under the €15 limit. It was very quick and simple and easy. Scary how streamless it was. For handiness and speed I will definitely use it again. Life is speeding up, no one has time to wait while you enter your pin number and wait for verification. I envisage that our phones will be connected to our bank accounts and we can cut out the card.

  15. This whole area has just become so interesting! I read over the christmas that a San Francisco based company called Coin ( have just developed an application that allows you to store the details of up to 8 cards in one card …now that to me is useful in that it reduces the clutter in your physical wallet but it only became interesting when I realised that that super-card detail could also be stored in your smartphone – this makes the move away from filthy lucre much more of a reality ….lumpy mattresses no more!

    I would be worried about the security implications – all stored cards/accounts would be exposed then.

    And it isnt free so you would have to really analyse your card usage and spend habits to ensure it was a worthwhile punt.

    how it works from
    “Storing and saving a card into Coin is quite straightforward. Users swipe the card using a bundled magnetic card reader that plugs into a smartphone, and will then need to take a photo of the card’s front and back sides. The Coin app will then encrypt and store the data on the smartphone. Users can switch across card data through a button on the Coin card itself, or through the smartphone app. A Bluetooth-enabled phone is required, however, because the Coin card communicates with the phone through Bluetooth, and will be disabled if it is away from the phone for more than 10 minutes, as a security measure.

    Coin assures users of security, as data is stored with 128-bit encryption. The company is also working on full PCI-compliance, which is an essential standard among credit card issuers and financial institutions.”

    This is an area that is rapidly developing. Interesting times ahead, but maybe we’ll be waiting as the merchant take-up of even contactless machines has been slow.

  16. Was totally unaware of NFC until reading this blog and my understanding is probably very
    limited and simplistic. I can see the attraction in added convenience but not
    sure if I want to make my phone more attractive to steal or even to increase
    its importance in my life. True a wallet can just as easily be taken and a
    phone has the added security of a pin; it’s just a shift in thinking that I am
    not ready to make, yet. It is the New Year and with it comes resolutions and my
    one is to live within my means. I take out €20 out of the cash point machine
    and I am aware of it dwindling. NFC Contactless is quick and convenient and
    instantly forgettable. It takes all the pain out of spending money! Apart from
    this I am not sure I need every purchase or transaction to be stored
    electronically, analysed and regurgitated back in the form of marketing offers.

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