NFC: Gaining Momentum

Gaining momentum from the possibility of the release of an NFC-enabled iPhone later this year, near field communications (NFC) technology is expected to finally hit the mainstream. NFC is a derivative of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, which was initially developed back in 1983, and allows two NFC-enabled devices to communicate text and numerical information when the devices are within a close proximity, typically an inch. Electronics giants Nokia, Sony, and Phillips founded the NFC Forum in 2004, and NFC tag specifications standards were established in 2006.  A host of applications have been developed utilizing NFC from access cards for hotel rooms to promotional materials for businesses to mobile pay services often called the “mobile wallet” to concert and event ticketing with NFC wristbands.   

Credit behemoth MasterCard teamed up with UK concert promoter John Giddings to unroll the technology at the 2011 Isle of Wight music festival, where concert attendees wore MasterCard PayPass prepaid NFC wristbands. In research, yielded from the project, PayPass users preferred the technology to credit or debit cards, for its speed and ease of use. One hundred percent indicated they would use NFC wristbands again if given the option for other concerts or sporting events. Pre-loaded with money for food and drink purchases, the PayPasses were handed out to people in the VIP area on a first-come basis, to be used at the Central Catering bar or Jamie Oliver’s Fabulous Feast restaurant. Those lucky enough to nab the bands were able to grab and go, without having to dig for change. According to promoter John Giddings:

Festivals are all about a great shared experience—the music, bands, food and drink all add to the atmosphere. New innovations such as this really add to the experience. I’m proud to have pioneered the wristbands at the Isle of Wight and hope to see them developed at future events.

Both consumers and service providers liked the NFC functionality, with both managers of Central Catering and Fabulous Feasts raving about the simplicity of NFC and the improved quality of service for customers. MasterCard further demonstrated the usefulness of the wristbands for access control by deploying terminals at main gate access points. NFC is a major initiative for the credit card company with more than 100 million enabled cards and devices worldwide. Said MasterCard UK & Ireland President Hany Fam:

The project was really the first part of testing consumer acceptance of a truly ‘cashless’ environment, which has been much talked about in the festival world. With the willingness of John to allow us access to his audience and the invaluable assistance of Central Catering, we have made some significant steps towards achieving this goal.

Fam would like to see NFC wristbands, cards, and enabled phones spread to other major ticketed events because the enhanced security is a major benefit in managing transactional credit risks. With speculation that the PayPass NFC technology will be a major feature of the new iPhone 5, the mobile wallet is no longer a pipe dream. With NFC, soon cash will become obsolete, and dollars will go the way of the Dodo.

What is NFC?