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How Near Field Communications (NFC) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Will Change Mobile - SXSW 2011


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From South by Southwest (SXSW) 2011, this annotated version of the talk in the Future 15 series explains what NFC and RFID are, which companies are most heavily supporting the technologies, and how …

From South by Southwest (SXSW) 2011, this annotated version of the talk in the Future 15 series explains what NFC and RFID are, which companies are most heavily supporting the technologies, and how the technologies are being used today.

Published in: Technology, Business

  • @cathcam yes, the execution is a work in progress. Granted, if I'm walking by a store and can easily tap the tag to get reviews, that does become really valuable. It's even more valuable if I can get some social context - like 10 of my friends have been there and 3 rated it an average of 4 stars, or most people say to try the lasagna, or that there's a special this week.
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  • Thanks for sharing this David.

    Having scanned some of the business tags from Google here in Austin, I'm left wondering, huh, who thought this up. A sign on a door at a shop that tells you the address of the shop you are already at, takes you to the web page where you already are and gives you a map and directions button...

    On the other hand, NFC itself looks really promising..
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  • Great 101 overview of a complex topic
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  • Near Field Communication (NFC) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) will change the wireless industry, user experiences, marketing, and shopping. Mobile phones a now being looked as a ubiquitous device that plays an increasingly important role in our lives. The mobile phone started as a tool to talk to people while away from a landline. Apps began to emerge on legacy phones, with the networks controlling content. Smart phones and most importantly the Iphone changed this stranglehold on content by creating an open developer ecosystem. Now the mobile phone is more akin to a computer than a phone. As the mobile phone increases in importance and new features are integrated such as RFID and NFC technologies the functions the mobile phone is used for will likewise increase. Today we use the mobile phone to use apps and surf the net. Tomorrow we will use the mobile phone to open doors (literally), pay for our purchases, earn loyalty rewards, redeem coupons and much more. The introduction of NFC and RFID into the mobile phone, which is a certainty, will not only change how we as users engage with our environment but also how retailers and marketers as well as network operators do business. Network operators will begin to look more like credit card companies, marketers and retailers will now be able to track purchases and redemption of coupons, in turn rewarding these behaviors with loyalty reward points.What is NFC and RFID and how does it work.What possibilities does NFC/RFID offer and how will it impact the mobile space.How is NFC and RFID better than alternatives such as SMS, MMS, bluetooth.What the mobile networks and handset makers such as Apple and Nokia are doing.Where NFC and RFID is going.
  • cardsGift cardsLoyalty cards
  • WikipediaRadio-frequency identification (RFID) is a technology that uses communication via radio waves to exchange data between a reader and an electronic tag attached to an object, for the purpose of identification and tracking.
  • is the read range for a typical RFID tag?There really is no such thing as a "typical" RFID tag, and the read range of passive tags depends on many factors: the frequency of operation, the power of the reader, interference from other RF devices and so on. In general, low-frequency tags are read from a foot (0.33 meter) or less. High-frequency tags are read from about three feet (1 meter) and UHF tags are read from 10 to 20 feet. Where longer ranges are needed, such as for tracking railway cars, active tags use batteries to boost read ranges to 300 feet (100 meters) or more.
  • Portland right now before broader rollout local business patrons in Portland, Oregon (the greatest city in the United States and home to almost half of ReadWriteWeb's staff) will soon be able to tap their phones against the snazzy Google Places window stickers shown above. If they have Google's very latest mobile model, or presumably almost any smart phone in the future ("cutting edge phones like Nexus S") then the magic of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology will promptly navigate their mobile browsers to the Google Places page corresponding to that location.Who wouldn't want a sticker that tells every passerby that their business has been recommended by one of the world's biggest brands, Google? Presumably that will become true for most places in short order, then people will buy more stuff, Yelp will quake in its boots and we'll all be in Location Based Nirvana.Take that, Facebook Places, you might have an equally morbid fascination with consumption of goods as the pinacle of location technology (hey, something's got to pay the bills, right?) but you don't have NFC, yet!Google has chosen to start its efforts out in Portland, Oregon but will expand in time to places far beyond. Portland has its own location based technology innovators, some arguably with a greater vision, but we shall see if NFC makes even Portlanders want to buy, buy, buy.If the stickers alone aren't enough, participating businesses can now order Google Places brandedcoasters, pens, fortune cookies (died red), after dinner mints and more. The location-aware future is here, people, and it has arrived in the form of an after dinner mint.
  • 2.3.3TECHCRUNCHCommunication. The update for Nexus S owners also includes a big change to the way Facebook syncing works (in short, it doesn’t) — see this post for more on this aggressive move by Google.The improvements to NFC for the Nexus S are especially interesting because they give a taste of Google’s future plans for the technology. The new functionality is best demonstrated by additions to the Tags application, which ships on the Nexus S.Until now Tags has allowed users to tap their phone on NFC tags at various venues to read information off of them (unfortunately these aren’t very commonplace yet — I have yet to actually use the feature in a real-world situation). But this update also adds write support — you can now create your own tag on the phone, and specify what information you want to share, be it your contact information, a link to a website, or a snippet of text. Then, when someone else with an NFC-equipped device taps your phone with theirs, they’ll be able to immediately receive this information (much in the same way you would using Bump). And, if you happen to own any of those NFC stickers that Google likes to show off, you can use the phone to write data to those, too.
  •’s Executive VP for Markets, AnssiVanjoki, announced that all Nokia smartphones will include Near Field Communication (NFC) beginning in 2011. The announcement was made yesterday during a keynote speech at the Mobey Forum in Helsinki, Finland. Some of NFC’s potential uses include: mobile payments, mobile ticketing, P2P setup, and RFID tag reading. Vanjoki went onto indicate that the SWP protocol could also be supported. There was no mention of what specific future smartphone models could get NFC first.UPDATE: The original article mis-quoted the Nokia E-VP, “Vanjoki didn’t say NFC would be in all smartphones, as most reported, but that Nokia would start to incorporate the technology into its Symbian^4 portfolio next year.”
  • Inc. plans to introduce services that would let customers use its iPhone and iPad computer to make purchases, said Richard Doherty, director of consulting firm Envisioneering Group.The services are based on “Near-Field Communication,” a technology that can beam and receive information at a distance of up to 4 inches, due to be embedded in the next iteration of the iPhone for AT&T Inc. and the iPad 2, Doherty said. Both products are likely to be introduced this year, he said, citing engineers who are working on hardware for the Apple project.Apple’s service may be able to tap into user information already on file, including credit-card numbers, iTunes gift-card balance and bank data, said Richard Crone, who leads financial industry adviser Crone Consulting LLC in San Carlos, California. That could make it an alternative to programs offered by such companies as Visa Inc., MasterCard Inc. and EBay Inc.’s PayPal, said Taylor Hamilton, an analyst at consultant IBISWorld Inc.“It would make a lot of sense for Apple to include NFC functionality in its products,” Crone said.The main goal for Apple would be to get a piece of the $6.2 trillion Americans spend each year on goods and services, Crone said. Today, the company pays credit-card processing fees on every purchase from iTunes. By encouraging consumers to use cheaper methods -- such as tapping their bank accounts directly, which is how many purchases are made via PayPal -- Apple could cut its own costs and those of retailers selling Apple products.Apple's plans could change, and the new products may be delayed or not come to fruition.Natalie Harrison, a spokeswoman for Apple, declined to comment.Adding Features to Phones“NFC is definitely one of the technologies that’s getting a lot of attention, but ultimately the consumer is going to choose,” said Charlotte Hill, a spokeswoman for PayPal, owned by San Jose, California-based EBay. Elvira Swanson, a spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Visa, said the company is “excited to see NFC mobile devices coming into the market.”Ed McLaughlin, chief emerging payments officer at MasterCard, said the company is “running the world’s fastest payment network, and that doesn’t need to be re-created.” MasterCard sees NFC “as an opportunity to partner with organizations” and already has run NFC payment trials around the world.The recently passed Durbin Amendment makes the timing right for a push by Apple, Crone said. The regulation, which will go into effect this summer, may limit debit-card fees paid by retailers and lets them encourage consumers to use one payment method over another.Competing With AndroidUnder Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook, who’s handling day-to-day operations as Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs takes medical leave, the iPhone is adding features that will help it compete with phones that use Google Inc.’s Android software. Samsung Electronics Co.’s Nexus S phone, which runs Android, can read information from NFC tags. Nokia Oyj, the world’s largest maker of mobile phones, has pushed NFC adoption for years, though the technology has been slow to take off.“Apple could be the game-changer,” Doherty said.Apple, based in Cupertino, California, is considering starting a mobile payment service as early as mid-2011, Doherty said. It would revamp iTunes, a service that lets consumers buy digital movies and music, so it would hold not only users’ credit-card account information but also loyalty credits and points, Doherty said.Using the service, customers could walk into a store or restaurant and make payments straight from an iPad or iPhone. They could also receive loyalty rewards and credits for purchases, such as when referring a friend, Doherty said.Targeted AdvertisingApple also could use NFC to improve how it delivers mobile ads to customers’ handsets and charge higher fees for those ads, Crone said. NFC would let Apple’s iAd advertising network personalize ads to the places where a customer is spending money. That could double or triple the ad rates that Apple charges, Crone said.Apple has created a prototype of a payment terminal that small businesses, such as hairdressers and mom-and-pop stores, could use to scan NFC-enabled iPhones and iPads, Doherty said. The company is considering heavily subsidizing the terminal, or even giving it away to retailers, to encourage fast, nationwide adoption of NFC technology and rev up sales of NFC-enabled iPhones and iPads, he said.To help get ready for NFC, Apple last year hired Benjamin Vigier, who worked on the technology at mobile-payment provider MFoundry. It also has applied for a patent on a system that uses NFC to share information between applications running on various Apple devices.
  • to Bling on FacebookRegister your mobile numberGrab a free BlingTag sticker at participating businesses
  • Go-Tag 7-Eleven
  • Note: Touchatag can do this too
  • Ideas (via Mixi)NFC friend requestDistribute coupons using NFC embedded POP at store frontAvoid “virtual check-ins”Via NFC: Japanese Social Network Mixi First To Let Users “Share” Real-World ItemsPosted: 11 Feb 2011 02:51 AM PSTJapan has always been the land of mobile. As such, it’s no big surprise that the country’s biggest social network, Mixi (JP, 23 million members), sees 25 of its 29 billion monthly page views coming from cell phones. And according to Mixi, it’s now the first social network that lets users share information with friends through NFC technology on Android handsets.Last year already, Mixi added two functions to its mobile site, which NFC is supposed to boost:Mixi Check In (which works much like Facebook Places)Mixi Check (essentially the same as Facebook’s Share function)The NFC-powered versions are named “Mixi Real Check In” and “Mixi Real Check”. NFC (Near Field Communication) technology makes it possible to exchange data between devices in close proximity to each other.Mixi Real Check In allows you to check in to places by tapping their Android phone on an NFC tag in the real world to share your location with your Mixi friends in real-time. These tags, which cost a few cents and can contain any kind of information (i.e. a URL or Twitter handle), can be attached to a wall or poster in a store or restaurant, for example.As Mixi Real Check In is based on NFC, a GPS signal (which can be weak in certain areas, like underground) isn’t necessary. The tags can also contain information on where exactly the user is located (for example, to broadcast to your friends in which section of a department store the tag was scanned).Mixi engineer Kyosuke Inoue demonstrates Mixi Real Check In in the company’s HQ in Tokyo:Mixi Real Check is potentially more interesting: this function allows users not only to share websites with friends but any object in the real world that has an NFC tag attached to it. Tapping or waving the phone near NFC stickers found on i.e. books or posters is enough to share the information on Mixi, in real-time. This could be anything from further information on the products to details on promotion campaigns a brand wants to run on Mixi.Bringing social functionalities to the real world is a great idea for a social network, but there are two downsides at this point: Mixi users interested in these new functions must own a Nexus S (the only Android device with the necessary hardware for NFC so far) and have Taglet (a special NFC app for Android) installed. The Nexus S isn’t even officially available in Japan currently, which means almost all Mixi users still must wait for the future.
  • Transcript

    • 1. RFID & NFC:How They Will Change Mobile…FOREVER!!! David BerkowitzSenior Director of Emerging Media & / /
    • 2. Some bonus reading material for you…
      At digital marketing agency 360i, we put out the Mobile Marketing Playbook. See, or scan the code.
    • 3. Mobile devices have proven to be juggernauts,destroying countless
      technological predecessors.
    • 4. The fashion accessory won’t die, but the functional purpose of watches is obsolete.
    • 5. I loved this alarm clock, which would shout, “Wake up! Don’t sleep your life away! MOOOO!” Who needs separate alarm clocks now though?
    • 6. Standalone GPS devices had a good run, didn’t they? And then Google released turn-by-turn navigation for Android.
    • 7. I loved my Pentax K-1000 fully manual camera. It was so much fun during my high school photography class that I still have it, in an attic somewhere. The most popular device for uploading photos and video is now the iPhone.
    • 8. I know the 3DS is supposed to be the next big thing, but really, why buy a separate system and pay $30-$40/game?
    • 9. Whether you’re buying a new car or signing up for Zipcar, it’s now increasingly common to unlock and start your car with an app. Farewell era of losing your car keys.
    • 10. Farewell era of losing the remote too. Soon you won’t have to juggle your remote with your phone and/or tablet.
    • 11. Coming soon (we’re a few years away…), goodbye, wallet! Remember the Costanza wallet? It causes all sorts of problems. Kids born today will view this episode in the same way we view movies showing computers in the 1960s. I do wonder though: what would the Costanza phone look like?
    • 12. Okay, let’s focus on a more typical wallet…
    • 13. Along with cash, we’ve got all kinds of cards – credit cards, gift cards, loyalty cards... And all of it will be rendered obsolete in the coming years by NFC. The rest of this talk will point to how and why that will happen.
    • 14. What is RFID?
      The short answer: RFID uses radio waves to allow a reader or scanner to communicate with a device that has some sort of electronic tag built in or added to it. Check Wikipedia or for more details.
    • 15. Range of RFID
      The range of RFID can vary considerably. It’s often a foot or so, it could be 10-20 feet, and it can even be amplified to more than 300 feet – the length of a football field, such as when tracking animals.
    • 16. There are some privacy concerns…
      Tom Toles summed up the privacy concerns around RFID. Some security issues remain, such threats are much greater when the signal broadcasts further.
    • 17. What is NFC?
      NFC uses RFID technology. It just operates at a much closer range, typically an inch or so, and thus requires less power and is much more secure.
    • 18. Survey says…
      “2011 is — finally — the year that near field communication begins to matter. The market will finally move away from the trial stage in regions where NFC infrastructure is in place.”
      Forrester Research
      2011 Mobile Trends report
    • 20. Google – in a big way
      Google set up a pilot for local businesses in Portland, OR where they can use these window stickers with embedded NFC chips. The catch: today there are barely any phones that can read them. But this is a sign of how NFC will be used in coming years.
    • 21. Here’s an example of the scanning in action. See more at
    • 22. Google Nexus S: the first drop of the NFC deluge
      The Nexus S phones include the NFC hardware and software. Remember when the first Android phone came out in T-Mobile and months later Android was everywhere? This is the case with NFC. Right now the Nexus S and Android software update 2.3.3 is the gold standard, but this will be commonplace.
    • 23. Update: Google expanding NFC pilot
      “Google Inc. (GOOG) plans to start testing a mobile-payment service at stores in New York and San Francisco within four months, letting shoppers use their phones to ring up purchases, three people familiar with the project said.
      The company will pay to install thousands of special cash- register systems from VeriFone Systems Inc. (PAY) … ViVOtech Inc., a provider of mobile-payment technology, will also play a role in the tests, which will include Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C...
      The Google service may combine a consumer’s financial account information, gift-card balances, store loyalty cards and coupon subscriptions on a single NFC chip on a phone.”
      Read more at Bloomberg
    • 24. Google loves NFC so much, it’s ditching QR
      This seems premature, given the much wider consumer access to QR vs NFC. Is Google betting too much on NFC too soon? Perhaps.
      …Google… quietly phased out support for QR Codes from its Google Places service earlier this week. … Last December, Google started sending out window decals with NFC chips to participating businesses in Portland, Oregon.
      Read the full story
    • 25. Google throws down the gauntlet with Google Wallet
      “George [Costanza] would go crazy over Google Wallet. It's a case within a case within a case, a veritable matryoshkadoll. Inside the case of the mobile handset is the device itself. Then inside the mobile device is the Google operating system. Within Android is Google Wallet, which ties in with Google Offers to provide targeted deals connected with the payment process. Inside Google Wallet will be a virtual array of your credit cards, loyalty cards, gift cards, mileage programs, bills, receipts, and tickets. Plus your phone already has your kids' baby pictures. “
      - Ad Age – “Costanza, Has Google Got a Wallet for You”
    • 26. Nexus S gets app love: ChargeAnywhere lets the phones accept payments via NFC
      “CHARGE Anywhere, a mobile payments company and gateway provider, has introduced a system that enables the Google Nexus S phone to function as an NFC-enabled mobile payments terminal. Using a mobile application downloaded to the device, merchants can accept NFC payments using just their Nexus S smartphone. An optional printer and swiper enables merchants to accept traditional credit card payments as well.” – ReadWriteWeb, March 2011
    • 27. Nokia hearts it too
      There were reports that Nokia would widely support NFC, but the correction toned it down a little. Still, for global handsets, it’s a big enough deal.
      “…Nokia [will] start to incorporate the technology into its Symbian^4 portfolio [in 2011].”
    • 28. Isis: Carriers to the rescue
      Carrier support is here too. AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile have teamed up to create ISIS, an alliance dedicated to furthering NFC adoption.
    • 29. Verifone pledges NFC everywhere
      Verifone to include NFC in all new payment systems
      Posted: 05 Mar 2011 05:21 AM PST
      In an attempt to combat what it is referring to as “merchant resistance,” payment solutions company Verifone has taken an unprecedented step with NFC (Near Field Communications) technology. The company will begin to include NFC in all new POS (point-of-sale) systems deployed to merchants. “The retail point of sale represents a point of convergence for smartphone-initiated payments, social networking and electronic couponing, but it won’t happen if retailers are expected, on faith, to absorb the costs of making it work,” said the Verifone’s CEO, Douglas G Bergeron. “We find ourselves at the epicenter of the mobile payments revolution and the key enabler of the integration of new payment methods with the world’s existing payment infrastructure.” Mr. Bergeron does caution that the mere presence of NFC in POS systems does not make a retailer ready to accept touch-less payment, rather it takes “deep software richness at the point-of-sale to interact with the smartphone and manage a services-based model.” The move is sure to have a positive affect on the future adoption rate of NFC, and we applaud Verifone for taking this giant step.
      Point of sale acceptance for NFC is a huge hurdle today. It’s chicken & egg all over again. But Verifone’s not waiting for the handsets to come out and is getting ready for NFC ubiquity. Hmm, think merchants would embrace a system that makes it even easier for you to buy stuff, and speeds up the checkout line in the process?
    • 30. Hey Apple, gimme (iPhone) 5!
      There are countless rumors out there about iPhone 5 support for NFC. Some expected it to be in iPad 2, but it’s not, so don’t believe all the rumors. It’s more important for phones though. We’ll find out soon enough if NFC wins over this crucial backer.
    • 31. March 14: No NFC for Apple?
      “Apple will not include ‘wave and pay’ chips in the new iPhone to be released later this year, dashing industry hopes that a universal standard for the technology would be adopted in 2011.
      “Sources at several of the largest mobile operators in the UK revealed Apple had disclosed in meetings that it would not be including Near Field Communication (NFC) technology – which enables payment for products with a wave of your phone on a reader – in the latest version of the iPhone…”
      Read more at The Independent:
    • 32. March 17: What THE??? We’ll know soon enough…
      Apple's forthcoming iPhone 5 may have near field communication (NFC) capabilities after all.
      "Just met with an entrepreneur who says the iPhone 5 *will* have NFC…according to his friend, who works at Apple," Forbes tech reporter Elizabeth Woyke just tweeted, adding, "Huh." (She has since written a post about it, too, here.)
      Read more:
    • 33. Will Amazon get into NFC?
      NFC works to pay instantly at a point of sale, so it will be very interesting how and why Amazon would play here.
      Read the full story
    • 34. Will Microsoft join the NFC fray?
      Microsoft is reportedly working on a version of its Windows Phone software that lets users buy goods by waving a handset over a reader at a checkout counter, Bloomberg Business Week reported.
      VentureBeat/MobileBeatMarch 30, 2011
    • 36. When looking at NFC today, it reminds me of those sticker books that were so much fun in grade school.
    • 37. The puffy stickers with googly eyes were the best! I don’t think that’s where NFC is going though. 
    • 38. Dairy Queen bats around Tetherball
      Dairy Queen ran a pilot with Tetherball to provide consumers with NFC-powered stickers that can be scanned at in-store terminals for special rewards.
    • 39. Will we be part of Bling Nation?
      Bling Rewards is a Facebook app to manage rewards. The idea is that with these NFC stickers and in-store terminals, rewards can improve for consumer loyalty. It’s still in early rollout stages.
    • 40. Slurp First Data’s GoTags at 7-Eleven
      First Data offers GO-Tag to partners such as 7-Eleven in select stores and markets. It’s similar to other examples here.
    • 41. It can be a game too
      Touchatag, which sells NFC readers and stickers that anyone can program, demonstrated a Capture the Tag game based on Capture the Flag.
    • 42. NFC could power future business cards(note: Touchatag can do this too)
      Watch on YouTube: Dan Blumberg:
    • 43. Mixi: All the world’s an NFC check-in
      Mixi, Japan’s leading social network, offers stickers that can facilitate real-world check-ins, among other actions. Now you can prove someone is really in a location, without any of the inaccuracy of GPS .
    • 44. The future: within 5 years
      All phones include NFC hardware
      All point-of-sale terminals accept it
      Stickers add broader NFC support:
      OOH ads
      Product packages
      Physical toys / games
      Frito pie
    • 45. Thank you!
      David BerkowitzSenior Director of Emerging Media & / / @360idberkowitz@360i.com
    • 46. Further reading
      RFID Journal:
      NFC Times:
      Near Field Communications World:
      Boy Genius Report:
      Ben Gaddis: