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NFC fails to find its killer app

Competition generates ideas, but not Eureka!s

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VingCard and Lancaster University have been crowned winners of the NFC Forum's Touch the Future competition, to reward the most compelling NFC applications around the world.

Announced last night, the winners were selected from 50 entries from 21 different countries.

The competition was split into commercial and research projects, with the former being judged on ambition and success and the latter focused on innovation.

VingCard's commercial entry is an automatic system for checking punters into hotels. Elsafe enables a hotel to send guests a key over SMS. The guest then uses their phone to unlock their room without having to bother checking in.

Many hotels already use MiFare-based locks, and NFC is compatible with MiFare, so deployment is actually quite simple.

Lancaster University, which took the research prize, cooked up a tourist information system that uses the phone interface as an extension to a kiosk service.

Touch & Interact enables a punter to pull up local information and tap their phone on the screen to navigate. The application also allows the phone screen to display "sensitive" information - though unless you don't want the person behind you to know you're looking up the local brothel, it's hard to see what sensitive information one shares with a tourist information kiosk.

More useful would be the ability to transfer directions or maps from the kiosk to the handset, though Touch & Interact doesn't explicitly provide that.

Few would deny that NFC is a cool technology, but it hasn't found its killer app yet - the one that'd make people walk into a mobile phone shop and ask for an NFC-enabled handset.

Last month, Nokia released a second NFC-enabled handset, the 6212 Classic. Until then the only NFC-enabled phone was the Nokia 6131NFC, star of almost every NFC trial around the world.

But even with two handset models, NFC is a long way off being accepted, and until someone can find a killer application it could remain a cool idea that never quite caught on. ®

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