At the 2013 Computer Electronics Show, there were only a few vendors touting Near Field Communications (NFC) technology integrated into their products, that I could see, and I did try to get to as many booths as possible. Last week I mentioned people in Korea use NFC business cards to exchange and play music on their devices. After that post, I did see a company’s tweet saying they were going to get into the distribution of NFC cards to store music, movies, and more, as the advertisement stated. The benefits of this technology over Bluetooth simply low / near null power signature, inexpensive relative to the Bluetooth technology, and the potential shortcoming is it has a very short range. Smartphones equipped with NFC can be paired with NFC tags or stickers which can be programmed by NFC apps to automate tasks. NFC always involves an initiator and a target; the initiator actively generates an RF field that can power a passive target. This enables NFC targets to take very simple form factors such as tags, stickers, key fobs, or cards that do not require batteries. NFC peer-to-peer communication is possible, provided both devices are powered. NFC tags contain data and are typically read-only, but may be rewriteable. I also had a conversation with someone that implied the storage on the NFC tags may be limited, so an easy workaround would be to store unique keys, such as a reverse domain name, and other pointers to data in a structured storage data web cloud, which is hosted by any number of verticals.
In this post I wanted to highlight a few potential uses. Unfortunately, this is the second time I am writing the blog post because the first one didn’t get saved. Annoying!
Instead of the sticker a car dealer, or your mechanic, may put in the top left hand corner of your window to remind you to change your oil at N miles or Z months, an NFC sticker can be encrypted with your car’s VIN number, the complete required and suggested maintenance for the vehicle, as well as when and by who these services were completed. The NFC Sticker may be placed in the console where you might place your smartphone.
Food Storage, Food Savings
On your refrigerator, you may place an NFC Sticker, that is overlaid on a magnet. Every time food is removed or placed in a refrigerator or pantry, you can swipe the food NFC tagged with the cooperation of the food manufacturer. An average usage model can be derived and encoded on the tag, as well as a proximity timer. If the food item, such as milk, is not returned to refregerator within a given period of time, a notification on your smartphone, and/or a depreciation counter can be reprogrammed on the NFC tag to indicate approximate usage. Once the item needs to be restocked, or placed back, a notification may appear on your smartphone, and/or added to your shopping list.
Books, Music, and Movie Samplings from a Store
If you’re in a store, and pass by a book, music CD or movie DVD, an NFC tag may contain a URL to download a PDF sample of the book, a music track from the CD, only available in stores through use of the NFC tag, or bonus material from a movie that only can be accessed through the NFC tag in stores to drive traffic into a store. I specified a URL to link to the content because the current specification seems to limit the amount of storage on the NFC tag, however, specs can change, and I might be a bit conservative on the amount of storage necessary, but with a ‘secure cloud’, the storage shouldn’t be a factor. Any information on the NFC tag can simply be pointers to unique keys to data in tables within the cloud, such as a VIN number, or other generated unique keys.
Imagine your in a store by yourself, and trying on an article of clothing, if the dress, pants or skirt contains an NFC tag, you can touch it with your smartphone, which links you to either advisors or AI, perhaps sponsored by a fashion magazine, that may provide you with with ideas to match that article of clothing, such as complementary accessories. This could be accomplished through a video camera, front facing camera, perhaps ads float across the bottom of the screen, and/or it could be a subscription service.
Meeting People / Dating
If you find yourself in a crowed bar, or party, and want to exchange information with someone you just met, you have an NFC tag or sticker placed on the back of your hand, or on your purse, when bumped, will automatically exchange a brief bio, picture, likes, interests, and an email address. If your smartphone is GPS compatible, the data is loaded onto your smartphone with the captured NFC tag data in addition to the location, so you never ask, so where did I meet this guy again?
Supply Chain Management and Shortages
Every person in the supply chain from manufacturer to retailers may have an NFC tag embedded within their employee identification tag, and as each individual handles the product or package, they swipe their card to the other NFC tag, and their employee unique identifier, along with date time and location (optional) may be rewrite the tag to append the new information. This may prevent product shortages, as well as help further optimize the supply chain.