Advertisers have already begun to embrace the value of NFC to promote brands through social media. Being able to simply tap your phone to 'like' on Facebook or 'follow' on Twitter has made engagement simple and effortless. To date advertisers have focussed on NFC-enabled smart poster campaigns, window stickers and almost every other form of print media but this looks set to change…
Facebook's first foray into the mobile arena, the HTC Status, never really gained any traction. The 'Facebook Button' seemed a great idea but social media is just one feature of many that consumers value in a smartphone, so onto round 2, the HTC First or 'Facebook Phone'. The HTC First is a huge leap forward from the HTC Status, Facebook will be at the heart of all the services your smartphone offers and that shows a very confident move from the social network and potentially a very lucrative one.
Social media has always struggled to generate the revenue its global significance suggests it should and for one reason, consumers don’t like advertisements, pack your website with them and you run a real risk even the most ardent devotee will walk. So if there is a limit on the number of adverts you can put per page there is only one answer, get users to view more pages !
The HTC First, or 'Facebook Phone', looks to place Facebook at the center of the smartphone experience, acting as the bridge to other services such as Spotify, YouTube, Instagram among many others and in doing so generate much sought after advertising revenue. If we do access mobile services through Facebook it will deepen our engagement with social media and how we use our smartphones to interact with the world around us and therefore in turn alter how we use NFC.
No more would we simply tap to 'like' or 'follow', all our NFC-enabled interactions would be directed through Facebook to create a detailed and extensive network of our personal preferences and behavior. It could also place Facebook in the position to expand its service with NFC-enabled loyalty schemes or even payments ? A frightening prospect, maybe, an advertisers dream, definitely ! And that is why we’ll be following the launch of the Facebook Phone very closely indeed.
It has been reported that Samsung have decided to switch from NXP’s NFC chip used in the S3 to a Broadcom chip for the S4. To be clear, this is the chip inside the phone that is used to talk with an NFC tag outside the phone. This is a significant change for a number of reasons including the effect on NXP's 1k chip.
As many of our regular blog readers will know, the NXP 1k chip isn’t NFC Forum compliant. In fact, RapidNFC have always given our customers the advice that they should avoid the 1k specifically because of this. While the BlackBerry range never supported the 1k, the release of the Google Nexus 4 started to show that the 1k is not an NFC tag that should be used 'in the field'.
The 1k has had it's supporters. Samsung themselves used it within their 'TecTiles' branded NFC tags and Moo, the print company, used the 1k in their NFC enabled business cards. However, both these instances just highlight how risky using the 1k tag has been.
The choice by Moo for using the 1k in business cards was not altogether odd. It's a very popular product for customers wanting to store vCards. We've always advised against it because we feel that pulling out an NFC business card in a meeting and then having to explain to your BlackBerry weilding visitor that it won't work on their phone even though they have NFC is something of a bad move.
But with Samsung reportedly using a Broadcom chip inside arguably the world's most popular phone - the S4 - this advice will no longer be merely a recommendation - it'll be a statement. Don't use the 1k's in any situation where your NFC tags will need to be widely used.
In May 2012 Google purchased mobile phone manufacturer Motorola Mobility for a staggering $12.5 (£8.3bn). Google is a company that excels at software, Motorola on the other hand are great at making devices so the fit seems obvious. The Google X Phone will be the first major collaboration since the takeover and a real test of its future success. So what should we expect ?
Motorola has long committed to Android as their sole mobile platform but enjoyed limited success by comparison with its competitors. This is because having a brilliant phone focussed on hardware features is no longer enough, consumers also need great software and this is where Google brings its expertise to the table. We expect the Google X Phone to show the best that both Google and Motorola have to offer, creating a seriously high end device that pushes Android and the experience it offers.
Google have always championed NFC as a way to better user experience and we expect the Google X Phone to take full advantage of the seamless experience NFC offers. Google Wallet has until now remained localised in the USA but a more global release is imminent as the infrastructure required for NFC enabled payments grows. The Google X Phone looks to be an ideal point to release Google Wallet globally and push the service to other Android users. New features and integration with NFC enabled Android Beam will also allow Android users to better share content with one another and the world around them.
The Google X Phone will act as a flagship model showcasing the best that Android has to offer. With this in mind NFC remains high on Google's development list and we can’t wait to see what tricks it may have up its sleeve !
According to a new report out today by ABI Research, there will be over 500 million NFC enabled phones and devices on the market by 2014. Interestingly, they report that over half of these - a total of 285 million - will ship in 2013 alone. By any standards, that's an astonishing growth rate. The report also states that already 'NFC has reached the point of no return'.
RapidNFC work with a large number of advertising agencies throughout Europe and the rest of the World on campaign planning and implementation. The leading question is almost always 'how many people will be able to scan the tags ?'. The answer, unfortunately, is always a little difficult to give and depends on target user base, demographics, location and so many other factors. But behind the question there is the fundamental reasoning of whether it's 'worth it'.
The answer today is that for cutting edge brands and advertisers, it already is. By next year, it would seem that the question won't even need to be asked.
This week Clear Channel Outdoor announced that 10,000 NFC-enabled smart poster panels have gone live across the UK. But what is a smart poster and how can it benefit your business ?
What Is A Smart Poster ?
Smart posters combine the visual impact of a traditional poster with the heightened interactivity offered by NFC (near field communication). Consumers with an NFC-enabled mobile phone can simply tap to receive interactive content, download vouchers and promotions or engage via social media. At the heart of each smart poster is an NFC tag, a small unpowered electronic device that holds a small amount of data such a web link, text or command. When an NFC-enabled phone is placed in close proximity, typically a few centimeters, it powers the NFC tag and reads the information stored on it.
How Do You Create A Smart Poster ?
A smart poster is created by combining printed media with either a visible or hidden NFC tag, usually in the form of a sticker. Custom Print NFC Tags are available with full colour print and can include branding, promotions or an NFC logo. Once encoded with your desired web address, text or command the NFC sticker can be simply stuck onto the visible face of the poster. A cheaper option is to use a clear or white NFC tag such as the NTAG203 Round 29mm and stick it to the reverse of the poster, aligned to an NFC logo or call to action within the creative.
Smart Poster Example
5 Great Ways To Use An NFC-Enabled Smart Poster
1. Vouchers and Promotions. Mobile vouchers offer a quick and convenient way to incentivise a trial of your product or services. Consumer research identifies vouchers and promotions as the primary reason for interacting with NFC-enabled advertising.
2. Local Information and Directions. It is a common misconception that smart posters are only for big brands and advertisers. Help customers find your business by linking to directions online or provide visitors and tourists with local information.
3. Link to Online Media. Static 2D advertisements are a thing of the past. Better engage your audience by linking to online video and interactive content.
4. Make a Purchase. Consumers are increasingly using their mobile phones to purchase online. Offer the option to 'buy now' or link to further product information.
5. Social Media. Allow customers to instantly 'like' or 'follow' your brand with a simply tap of their phone. If you have something great to offer make it easy for customers to share it online.
The national news agency Focus Taiwan have reported that Taiwanese firm Chipbond has won a major contract from Apple to build components for the forthcoming iPhone 5s stating, "iPhone will also feature NFC (near field communication) fingerprint recognition technology, with Chipbond as the main supplier of the fingerprint identification chip."
The argument for likely NFC-inclusion in Apple products has until now focussed on its competitors. If everyone else includes NFC then so must Apple ? But let's be clear, Apple have never worked that way so the idea NFC-inclusion would prove an exception has never been a solid argument. For Apple to integrate NFC within the next iPhone or iPad there has to be an overriding product or service that requires the technology, and that is what makes the announcement of NFC-enabled fingerprint recognition so interesting.
In the battle between the mobile giants few areas will become more hotly contested than mobile payments and for one reason, the money to be made is eye watering ! Many argue mobile payments are a non-starter, unnecessary, a fad, but that's what they said about mobile phones in the 80's, text messaging in the 90's, mobile internet in the 00's and well, you get the idea !
Google have already put their idea forward with Google Wallet, using pin recognition to verify each transaction. Conversely I would argue Apple has been deliberately vague, but in July 2012 they bought secure solutions specialist Authentic for US$365m after they had developed an innovative NFC-enabled fingerprint security solution. Authentic then proceeded to sell off parts of the company that were unrelated, focussing its efforts on NFC and fingerprint identification. If the reports are correct and Apple uses fingerprint recognition for payment authorisation, and it works, then this could be the catalyst that rejuvenates the iPhone, making it once again the most innovative smartphone on the market.
Mobile payments using your fingerprint for identification could be a real game changer but why would Apple use NFC ? There are other options such as QR codes or Bluetooth 4.0 that could do the same job. QR codes by comparison to NFC are very cumbersome to use and visually offer nothing or even detract. NFC is the obvious choice. Bluetooth 4.0 on the other hand can offer a slick interaction but has one major drawback when it comes to payments; there just isn't the ecosystem to support it. The banking industry has already committed to NFC as the payment technology of choice and Visa and Mastercard have certified dozens of phones for NFC-enabled mobile payments. NFC-capable payment terminals are also being installed throughout the globe with Berg Insight estimating 43.4 million units by 2017.
So what does this mean ? If Apple did use a technology other than NFC to enable its mobile payments there simply would not be the ecosystem to support it, and this is why they may have to follow their competitors and include NFC in the next iPhone, whether they want to or not. Apple however will not introduce NFC as a standalone feature and NFC-enabled fingerprint identification might just be the innovative mobile payments solution that makes it happen.
It was announced earlier this week that the NFC Forum, the global NFC standards association, has added Google onto it's Board of Directors. Google join a notable list of companies that hold this position including Intel, Visa, Mastercard, Nokia, Sony and Samsung. Clearly, for the NFC ecosystem it's a good thing to have such a progressive tech company providing guidance and getting involved at the top level. But perhaps it's also an interesting sign of strategic positioning.
The NFC Forum is an important global body. Amongst other things, it is responsible for setting the technical specifications for NFC to ensure compatability. We, RapidNFC, are a member of the NFC Forum and there are significant number of other companies such as Microsoft, Canon, BlackBerry, PayPal and HP who are also members.
Apple are not members of the NFC Forum. While this may be because they have no intention of including NFC in the iPhone or other products, it may also be that they don't want to give any indication that they may include NFC. Obviously we don't know but there are a number of companies involved in the Forum that don't currently actively work with NFC but are involved so that they understand the system and can plan for it.
NFC isn't a technology that works in isolation. It's a technology that is all about objects talking to each other - phones to payment terminals, NFC tags to readers and so on. It's a technology that requires standards and guidelines so that the whole NFC infrastructure works reliably. It's not going to be in Apple's interest to launch their own 'version' of NFC and while Apple have always kept their cards close and have always done their own thing, to remain removed from what is the most important NFC industry body would, under normal business procedure, seem odd.
It could be argued that Apple have made a decision never to include NFC. In which case there would be no need to be part of the industry body but such a long term decision on what is essentially still an embrionic technology would be, perhaps, foolish.
And this is what makes Google's addition to the Board of Directors alongside Samsung, Sony and Nokia perhaps more interesting. As a piece of strategic positioning the NFC Forum is now being part governed by Apple's most important competitors (save perhaps Microsoft depending on your view on that one). Clearly, this wouldn't stop Apple releasing the iPhone 6 (or iPhone 5S) with NFC but as mentioned, NFC doesn't work well in isolation and if Apple do decide to jump on board with NFC surely it makes more sense to be inside the Forum guiding it's future than having to be part of the decisions that the Forum makes.
Decisions which are now being made by Apple's leading competitors.
"READY 4 THE SHOW. COME AND MEET THE NEXT GALAXY" - Samsung's invite can only mean one thing, on March 14 the long awaited Samsung Galaxy S4 will be unveiled in New York. Speculation has been building for months and here's why...
The Samsung Galaxy S3 has without doubt been the most successful Android smartphone to date. Samsung's Galaxy brand has sold more than 100 million devices worldwide and is presently the only realistic rival to Apple's dominance in the smartphone market. The Samsung Galaxy S3 has been of particular importance for Near Field Communication (NFC), providing millions of consumers access to the increasing range of NFC-enabled applications and services on offer. With Samsung predicting Galaxy S4 sales as high as 10 million units per month it seems the rate of NFC adoption is about accelerate even further !
More NFC-enabled smartphones means more NFC-enabled services and like all emerging mobile technologies NFC requires both to endure. As a company heavily engrained in the NFC ecosystem, RapidNFC has seen the positive effect a major smartphone release can have on the industry and mobile releases such as the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 and Motorola X will offer developers cutting edge NFC-enabled hardware that will be carried, day in, day out by consumers throughout the world.
Recent research by leading advertisers Clear Channel showed after demonstration the importance of NFC functionality in a respondent’s next phone doubled from 36% to 70%.  With this in mind NFC is fast becoming an important differentiator between Apple and well, everyone else and Samsung knows it, highlighting the use of NFC in 'The Next Big Thing' campaign. With the Galaxy S4, Samsung is taking Apple head on and we can't wait to see who will come out on top.
The 2013 Mobile World Congress (MWC) begins in Barcelona on Monday, and this year they are offering a truly interactive experience powered by Near Field Communication (NFC).
For years the MWC has attracted the biggest names in mobile such as Samsung, HTC, Sony and Nokia. Following their increased presence at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) we also expected to see more from potential Chinese rivals such as Huawei and ZTE. Most companies have followed Apple's lead and no longer use these events for major phone releases, notably the Samsung Galaxy S4's release which is expected after the MWC on 14th March. The MWC does however show where the industry is heading over the next 12 months and with this in mind GSMA, the event organisers, have created the NFC Experience.
Exhibitors, vendors and attendees will use NFC throughout the 4 days congress. There will be a designated NFC centre, an NFC Badge app allowing instant access to venues, NFC experience zones and smart posters will bring exhibits to life and NFC payments can be made at over 16,000 contactless payment terminals throughout the city. Sony in partnership with Visa Europe and Telefonica are even offering 3,500 NFC-enabled phones for access to NFC-enabled services.
So what does all this mean !? Simply, NFC is the mobile technology to watch in 2013. Until now NFC had been held back by manufacturer inclusion but no more. Android, Windows Phone 8 and Blackberry OS all support NFC. With the exception of Apple every mobile manufacture is using this support to enable NFC in their smartphone releases and such is the uptake even Apple is expected to follow suit in the iPhone 5s or iPhone 6 release tipped for June/July. As NFC becomes an increasingly available smartphone feature it offers developers a seamless way to connect their apps to the world around them and the range of applications are huge. Smart posters, security and access control, product identification, events management, payments, loyalty rewards, auditing... the list goes on and on ! With this in mind we'll be keeping a close eye on this year Mobile World Congress. It's about to begin !
After many setbacks the wait is finally over as BlackBerry 10 is officially released in New York. Many see this as a do or die moment for BlackBerry (the company formally known as Research In Motion/RIM) after its dramatic fall in market share over the last couple of years.
Most recent BlackBerry phones have included NFC and as expected, the two new BlackBerry Z10 and Q10 phones and the Blackberry 10 OS all support the rapidly growing contactless technology. In fact, BlackBerry have put substantial resources in place to help developers make the most of NFC on their platform. Geoffrey MacGillivray, Senior Product Manager of NFC for BlackBerry/RIM commented, "Our application developer support team is actively working within that community to educate developers on the capabilities of NFC and certainly within BB10 to indicate that we really have NFC functionality inside". Taking into account the recent approval of the Secure Element Manager (SEM) payment system by Visa, Blackberry 10 now allows developers to offer their customers complete NFC solutions in a way not previous possible.
It is estimated that Blackberry still holds 6.5% of the UK market by operating system, the third largest behind Android and Apple iOS. Therefore, it's success can have a significant potential to accelerate the uptake of NFC as we move through 2013. Their current NFC app 'Smart Tags' offers the ability to encode URLs (web addresses), Phone, Email and SMS commands. Along with what is now the essential 'tap to share' features, the development or/inclusion of 'Task Launcher' or similar interaction apps like those available on Android would be a welcome update, helping to further educate Blackberry customers on what NFC has to offer.
In keeping with previous BlackBerry handsets, the two new Z10 and Q10 BlackBerry handsets support NFC Forum compliant chips. RapidNFC have tested tags with BlackBerry and can confirm full support for both Ultralight and NTAG203 products. We will be testing shortly the new NXP NTAG series (NTAG210, NTAG213) and will feedback as soon as possible.
Blackberry 10 looks set to offer users an updated and slick NFC experience. Will they respond and give BlackBerry the turnaround they are looking for? Only time will tell...