NFC in 2013

NFC had a good run in 2013. Every month, we heard exciting news about NFC products or trials being launched. These launches have extended far beyond the “mobile payment” category to include product/service marketing, toys, games, furniture, printing, utilities, machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, quality control, inventory management, service automation, and more.

ABI research pointed out that smartphones will continue to account for the majority of NFC shipments in 2013 as volumes jump by 129%. However, from 2014 onwards, computing products, peripherals and automotive will have greater adoption of NFC, and consequently, smartphones will decline from a peak of 80% of all NFC device shipments in 2013 to less than 60% in 2017.

NFC and other connectivity enablers are greatly expanding an “Internet of Things (IoT)”. It’s obvious that we are becoming increasingly connected through wireless technology, and M2M communication is on its rise. A good example is that Google and Apple are about to expand their battle to a new front: the automobile. This was reported by the WSJ a couple of days ago.

Big data is a buzz word nowadays. NFC, RFID, QR Code, and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) are all types of sensors that contribute to the big data scenario. Big data analytics are going to produce valuable information about consumers and merchandise. It’s also going to change the retail store shopping and mobile phone experience.

One of the usages of NFC is mobile payment. Recently, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile launched ISIS – NFC mobile payment using a SIM-based secure element that manages payment credentials. It will take a while before the consumer market adopts this technology since NFC is not yet a familiar technology, and mobile payment is not a yet a common practice.

In addition, a different approach to implement mobile wallet emerged. Google Wallet led the way to adopt the Host Card Emulation (HCE) approach in order to implement NFC secure app independently from telecom’s control of SIMs. Tim Horton’s, a North American coffee chain, has also launched an NFC mobile payment service using HCE at 3,500 locations in Canada and 800 in the United States. It will be interesting to watch the battle between various NFC mobile payment implementations and adoptions.

2014 should be an exciting year as NFC products and services continue to grow in availability and usage.

WIMA NFC / Proximity Pre-conference

The WIMA NFC / Proximity Solutions Conference is being held in San Francisco from October 28 to 30. This is the third WIMA conference in the USA. Last year, WIMA focused on NFC (Near Field Communication) technology and this year the scope has been expanded to other Proximity connectivity technologies: QR codes, Bluetooth, BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), etc.

In yesterday’s pre-conference sessions, NFC, QR codes and Bluetooth overviews were presented by Gonda Lamberink, Stephanie True Moss and Dimtri Galeridis. Technology Marketing strategy and use cases were presented by Thomas Hissam and Serafin Arroyo. Panel discussions at the end of the day was very engaging and the audience participated actively. Marc Greenbaum, Verizon, shared telecom’s position on educating consumers and mobile payment (ISIS).

We also discussed what is the right technology for the right market. Consumers don’t care about which technology is used. The user experience is the most important. How we deploy the technologies that will serve the consumers is key. How we collect and leverage the data collected by these technologies is important to develop brand through personalization.

We are looking forward to today’s sessions and learning.

Sensors and Big Data Analytics

After learning about Google’s Sensing Lab, I did some reading on Big Data and sensors.

In the book of “Taming the Big Data Tidal Wave” by Bill Franks, the value of sensor data was demonstrated with the case of industrial engines and equipment. It discussed how the embedded sensors were utilized from aircraft engines to tanks in order to monitor the second-by-second or millisecond-by-millisecond status of the equipment. All data was fed into “Big Data” analytics.

IBM and The Beacon Institute also collaborated on an effort to use a sensor-enabled monitoring network In order to track temperature, salinity and pollution of the Hudson River. Actually IBM Big Data Technology is used to develop several environmental protection projects like this one.

What about proximity sensors and Big Data? Coca Cola is using NFC tags and QR codes in 100 selected retail stores to collect the data about user behavior and handsets. The backend platform collects analytics such as time, location, frequency of interaction, tap vs. scan, phone model, operating system, service provider and browser type. SocialTagg, a startup in LA, offers an event management platform to enrich attendees’ networking experience by using Big Data analytics on QR codes/NFC tags that were assigned to the event participants.

I will be leading a panel on “Building a Link Between NFC/Proximity Technologies & Big Data” in WIMA USA – NFC and Proximity Solution conference on October 29th in San Francisco. I am looking forward to having a rich discussion with the participants. If you are a “Big Data” expert and would like to join the panel, please contact me at

NFC Tag and QR Code

When I explained NFC tag to a friend, he replied, “I got it! It’s like QR code.” Spot-on. The concept is similar to QR code. QR code is popular enough for people to capture the concept. For those who aren’t sure what a QR code is, here is an example:Wikipedia_mobile_en

QR (Quick Response) code was created by a Toyota subsidiary in 1994 to track vehicles during manufacture. It became widely utilized worldwide in the last few years with the popularization of smart phones, which can be used as QR code scanners. For example: Front Flip is a mobile app that can be downloaded to an iPhone or Android phone to scan QR codes. Some restaurants place their QR code by the entrance of their stores. When customers scan it with Front Flip in their phones, they unlock a digital scratch-off card that provides a chance to win a discounted meal. This helps retaining customers. More than 30 such mobile loyalty apps have emerged in recent months [1].

The main difference between a QR code and an NFC tag is that NFC tags can be read by smart phones without an app. Today, most newly released smart phones are NFC enabled; they have an NFC chip inside the phone that communicates with NFC tags.

For example: Starbucks can embed an NFC tag in a poster promoting a new drink. When a customer taps his/her NFC phone to the tag, he/she gets a coupon for a discount. The customer can pass that coupon just by tapping his/her phone with a friend’s NFC phone. These are how NFC functions in open mode.

Cost-wise, the NFC tag is still much more expensive (around a dollar more) than QR code (which only costs pennies). The cost for NFC tags will drop as it becomes more widely adopted over time. Phone manufactures, telecoms, and service providers should educate their consumers about NFC devices in order to speed up the adoption rate.

ABI Research reported 102 million NFC handsets were shipped in 2012; 285M will ship in 2013 and 500M in 2014. NFC tablets and laptops have already been released. Sometimes, I wonder why telecoms can’t figure out how to promote NFC capability to their consumers when it’s so easy to demonstrate the advantage of using it and so many devices are available with the capability.