The traditionally advocated uses for NFC have been to replace RFID chips in travel cards, such as the Oyster card in the UK, and RFID chips in credit cards, such as MasterCard’s PayPass.
The problem with these replacements is a simple one, however. Smartphone batteries run out. They do so with alarming regularity, and they do so at inopportune moments. I don’t care what phone you say you have, and I don’t care if you say it doesn’t happen to you, because it does. You end up staying out late, or you leave your charger at home by accident, or you just plain use the phone too much during the day, and then when you need the phone to work, it doesn’t because it’s out of juice.
The phone running out of power is bad enough when it means you don’t have maps and directions. That’s annoying. But even worse is the battery going flat when you need the phone for mass transit or paying for stuff.
And yet that’s precisely the value proposition that NFC offers: go out for a night on the town and get stranded with no money, no subway ride home. The only way to be safe is to take your credit card and travel card with you anyway, and if you’re doing that? Well you don’t exactly need NFC then, do you?
I admit it: I’m really curious to see how NFC technologies are adopted by various vendors and developers. To date, however, the integration has been poor and what adoption there has been tends to focus on payment solutions. Payment solutions scare the crap out of me because they increase the reasons attackers have to compromise my phone: it’s bad enough they want my personal information; I don’t want them after my digital wallet as well!
RIM has a neat bit of technology they’ve recently released, which leverages the NFC functionality in their new phones with Bluetooth pairing systems. Specifically, it enables rapid syncing between phones and audio-output devices (i.e., speakers). While the product is pretty “meh” as released today, it could be pretty exciting were vehicle manufacturers and speaker manufacturers to generally integrate NFC-pairing capabilities with their respective products. It’s presently a pain to listen to music stored on a mobile through vehicle speakers (using Bluetooth) or a friend’s speakers in their home. RIM has offered a partial solution to the Bluetooth pairing problem; now it’s up to the larger ecosystems to actually integrate RIM’s idea in a omnipresent and highly functional way.