Google recently announced the Nexus S phone, created in partnership with Samsung. This is the latest in the developer phone range, aimed at providing a reference device for the next wave of consumer Android devices running Android OS 2.3 (Gingerbread) and higher.
One of the features of this phone is an NFC chip, which is capable of transmitting and reading data at a distance of up to 10cm. It is compatible with existing systems such as RFID tags: tiny, incredibly cheap slithers of componentry able to store information and be embedded in anything from food packaging to stickers.
We’ve not had long to think about the potential applications of wide-spread NFC usage, but I can see this breeding some fantastic new ways to use technology. Last night I visited the London Android group, and a few ideas came to mind on the trip home. These are some potentially common use-cases that we’ll see in the next few years…
PayPal / Visa / MasterCard
This will allow us to pay for goods without physical credit/debit cards, or even send a friend or eBay seller money. For in-store purchases equipment will be in place to swipe your phone against and let you acknowledge the payment, and for private transfers you’d simply fire up the PayPal app and type in the amount you wish to send. The NFC chip in the receiving phone can be “activated” passively by swiping the phones together, or opening the app could enable it for 10-15 seconds. Swipe it over your friend’s phone, their details appear on-screen and you hit “send”. The system will send the money to their registered account. The nice thing about this is that you don’t even need to know the person you’re paying, you could literally transfer money to someone you’ve never met, securely, on the street.
An NFC chip is embedded or stuck to a table in a bar or restaurant. By swiping your phone you’ll be able to uniquely identify your table, placing orders, requesting service and ultimately taking your phone over to the bar to settle up via an NFC capable payment device such as Barclays PayWave found all over the UK. A white-label app could be used at multiple destinations, acting as central gatekeeper to the UIDs in order to also provide the order and payment systems so the phone owner doesn’t need to download an app per destination.
There are too many possibilities to mention here. But the way that the Android Intents and Service systems works provides plenty of incredibly hassle-free ways to make use of tag “intents” combined with existing location-based social gaming. You swipe a tag or phone near another and the GameService registers the occasion to whatever ends your game needs. Stealth may even come into it, swiping a phone near another without them realising, alternatively enabling geo-caches with RFIDs for 1 player games.
Lots of fun to be had with NFC, any other suggestions off the top of your head?