The beginner's guide to near field communications
Wave me the money
Near-field communications (NFC) will take off very quickly - once it's clear who can make money from it.
From the look of it, 2011 is the year that it will all become clear.
Mobile handset vendors are rushing to incorporate NFC into their roadmaps, with several high profile NFC-enabled handset launches pencilled for mid-2011.
RIM recently hinted at incorporating the technology into new BlackBerry devices, the iPhone 5 is widely expected to include an NFC chip, and Samsung and Nokia are understood to be planning several NFC-enabled phones.
Mobile operators are gearing up too. In the UK, for instance, O2 is building out an NFC team and forecasts that near field communications will enter the consumer mainstream in mid-2011. Orange UK is equally bullish, forecasting sales of 500,000 NFC-enabled phones this year.
So what's the fuss all about?
N-Marks the spot
NFC uses low-powered radios to communicate tiny amounts of information over very short distances - 100mm or less.
An NFC device, typically a mobile phone, can talk to compatible smart cards and readers, and other NFC devices, and it incorporates technologies used by public transport systems for ticketing and payments.
In Europe and the US, the term “NFC” is used synonymously with the "N-Mark" standard maintained by the NFC Forum.
N-Mark has expanded steadily, and its inclusion of standards used in mass-transit systems allow the NFC Forum to claim hundreds of millions of units deployed, despite the fact that only half a dozen NFC-capable devices have been launched, and none has yet been successful.
Applications for NFC include making a fast payment, or pairing a device with a router, or even exchanging business cards with a colleague.
Two applications that do offer an obvious revenue stream are stored-value payments and location advertising.
Next page: The Oyster is my world
So what are those 250 "gurus" for then?
To create a following, what else?
Can you say "technology solution looking for a problem to solve"? Why then, are operators now finally sinking a bunch of dosh in hyping this, well, solution without a problem? Methinks it's the structure of the market. They've been staring at each other, and somebody moved. Now they all have to move. Even if they haven't a clue how to get wherever they're going, yet.
Is this the wrong place to mention the complete farce that's the "OV-chipkaart" (oyster type card, to be used as the exclusive payment method for all public transport over in The Netherlands) as it's been very publicly shown to be broken _again_ (previously in 2008) and is still getting pushed through by all relevant actors including up to the minister? RFID writers are suddenly becoming HUGELY popular over there.
If the plebs have any sense, they'll let this one slide like lead brick down a soaped slope. If /the hackers/ have any sense, they'll smash the security publicly to bits until nobody dares talk about the entire thing.
Like the range claims have already been shown to be stretchable to metres. Bill is still soundly in denial about that, though. The thing is, the engineering assumptions to make this wireless thing work aren't quite solid enough to rely on for your security assumptions. "We don't require it to work further out than 20cm" is not quite the same as "We require it to not work further out than 20cm". The difference leaves the system wide open for fraud and mischief. As does, oh, broken security in the cards themselves.
Yes, engineering for function and engineering for security are different, have different implications, and the differences are actively being ignored at the end user's peril. Which is to say, the end user now has no choice left but must understand this, and act accordingly.