Near Field Communications – how it can change our world

By on November 21, 2010
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No cards, no plastic, just your mobile.

Last week I was wondering how likely it is for us to use our mobile phones to pay bills, make reservations, etc. As if in response, a few days later the ISIS initiative was announced in the US which basically covers all my needs as a mobile phone user.

Basically Near Field Communications (NFC) is the name of the game here, or for the future of all mobile devices. In a nutshell, you’re using your mobile phone to transfer information to an NFC device in close vicinity (around 10 centimeters). So for instance wherever you need to make bill payments where a credit/debit card is required, such as supermarkets, restaurants, airports, etc. is where NFC capable mobiles will come in handy. Or even places that use top-up cards such as public transport (busses and metros), etc. Sharing information between NFC enabled mobile phones will simply be a matter of a touch of button, no hunting of a Bluetooth signal or pairing and authorizing will be required. Things will get much simpler and easier.

So what the ISIS represents is a union between AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon to build a huge network of information and trade enabled via NFC capable smartphones. This will essentially allow for a more convenient shopping experience for both consumers and retailers. Ideally your mobile phone is used as a credit/debit card to make payments, or any loyalty cards that you would have for various retailers will also not be needed anymore as your shopping info (card numbers, previous shopping history, etc.) is stored on your mobile. These details can not only be used to track your transactions history, but also used by retailers (and yourself) to target specific offers and products suited to your needs.

Of course, there are a lot of security concerns as well, such as information being deleted completely or even manipulated. While the former is not hard to do, with extremely specialized equipment, the latter is virtually impossible. Then again, security risks are also equally considerable on your WiFi connection, so data theft/manipulation over the RF signal on NFC devices is something being treated as importantly as any other wireless data communication.

ISIS is certainly a step in the right direction for how mobile phones will be used in the future. One can only hope that this tech becomes a success and is actually viable for consumers in terms of simplicity and security. NFC can’t become mass market soon enough!


From auditing to editing, I now test and analyze the latest gadgets and games instead of the latest financial statements. Both jobs are equally intense and rewarding. When I'm not burning up hardware in the name of science, you'll find me nuking in DOTA 2 or engineering in TF2.

  • Mufaddal Fakhruddin

    The tech is risky and will be meet with apprehension. A lot of people still shy away from making online purchases. Yet if the security concerns are dealt with, it will be nothing short of revolutionary. More importantly because mobile phones don’t behind and will avoid talking to mind numbing CSRs!

  • Abbas Jaffar Ali

    NFC has already been announced as a part of Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). I’m sure iOS will add it next year as well.

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  • Manish

    how will banks take to NFC?

    • Taimoor Hafeez

      Imagine walking up next to an ATM, starting the bank’s app on your phone and just entering the amount you need. Bring your phone close to the ATM and money pops out.

      Then there’s the element of being able to pay directly using your phone which is hooked up to your bank account. Swipe and pay.

    • Abbas Jaffar Ali

      If you are talking from the Security point of view, then I believe it could be more secure than your plastic ATM or Credit Card. Imagine a string on x numbers that changes every few seconds on your device to validate it with the bank. Your phone’s screen could also act as a finger-print reader

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