The last day of Nokia World, I interviewed Jeremy Belostock, the Head of NFC for Nokia’s Device Experiences group.
NFC — for those of you non-gadget types, like myself — stands for "near field communication." And it is basically a functionality which allows mobile handsets to have "contactless" communication with other handsets, ear pieces, keyboards, other devices, even with out of home media, product packaging, kiosks, turnstiles, or anything where you can enbed an NFC-smartcard. Think of NFC as a tooll which allows you to use your mobile phone as your subway pass, your credit card, your change at a vending machine, or as a way to interact with media for additional information or promotions.
There are a few hurdles keeping NFC from becoming a mainstream application:
1) First, users have to buy NFC-enabled phones. This of course is Nokia’s big push. It wants to increase sales of NFC phones by showing users value in some very personal applications of NFC — like sharing photos, games, videos phone to phone.
2) Second there needs to be a development of access points which allow consumers to transact using their NFC phones. NFC phones are only good for phone to phone sharing until someone (retailers, mass transit authorities, movie ticket kiosks) enables an access point which will process NFC transactions
3) Finally, I learned that NFC is one of those things where the value of having it increases exponetially the more other users and access points there are. So the last hurdle is getting wireless carriers, banks, other handset manufacturers on board to help users get value out of NFC.
Per my previous blog post, nothing in mobile marketing is working itself out quickly, and NFC isn’t going to either. But I came away from my conversation with Jeremy much more bullish on NFC than on many of the other mobile marketing applications I’ve seen. NFC, although a new and sort of "Jetson’s like" delivery mechanism, can easily be treated as an extension of the types of marketing you are already doing.
*You have couponing/promotional relationships in place with supermarkets already. NFC lets you deliver those coupons direct to a mobile phone instead of to a dedicated loyalty card or cicular
*You are doing direct mailers, NFC lets you include a smart card in the mailer which downloads an offer, video, product demo to a mobile handset
*You are a merchant looking to close the loop on out of home or even in-store marketing. Now users can transact at point of message via their mobile.
Trials of NFC today are mostly in Shanghai, Germany, Austria and New York, through applications like vending machines and mass transit passes. But you don’t have to wait for mass adoption or a lot of new technology infrastructure to give it a whirl.
Nokia, Sony and Ericsson are part of the NFC Forum and are eager to develop NFC applications with marketers to help gain traction for their handsets. I actually think a conversation about NFC could have more affordable, more immediate results than alot of other mobile marketing experiments I’ve seen.