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NFC Forum touts phone-sniffable poster ploy

Mysterious whitepaper hints at hidden revenue

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The NFC Forum is extolling the benefits of Smart Posters: objects in or on which readable NFC tags have been placed. The business model, however, remains obscure to everyone except Google.

Near Field Communications is often used synonymously with proximity payments, but in fact the technology can be used for all sorts of other things as the NFC Forum is keen to point out. But the Forum's latest white paper, Smart Posters, does less to convince than Google's decision to expand its rollout of NFC-enabled stickers.

Google began pushing stickers with embedded NFC tags to businesses in Portland, Oregon, back in December last year, and is now providing them to businesses in Las Vegas, Madison (Wisconsin), Charlotte (North Carolina), and Austin, Texas. Users who wave an NFC-equipped phone near the sticker get sent to the Google Places page for that business, from where they can check the opening hours, post a review or check in with Google Latitude, as the whim takes them.

But the NFC Forum would like embedded tags to do much more than that, and the new white paper (25-page PDF/859 KB, easy to read by light on content) provides examples and advice for those thinking of deploying radio tags around the place:

"Because NFC tags are sensitive, it is a good idea to test that the tag can be read once it is in place" ... reads one particularly useful example, and don't forget to "make sure that your tags will hold all the content your Smart Poster needs".

Slightly more useful is the reminder that tags attached to posters or products might be vulnerable to attack, and should probably be set to read-only where possible.

But it is the examples which are supposed to inspire readers to consider how they can benefit from attaching radio tags to everything around them. The Forum pulls up current deployments, including city walks populated with NFC information points, and a restaurant in Finland which offers an NFC-enabled menu allowing the dinner to order a meal without having to engage a human being in conversation at all.

But NFC isn't just for businesses. The NFC Forum suggests you might like to make your own tags linked to useful phone numbers or websites which can then be affixed to "perhaps a daily planner, a bulletin board, or other locations around the home".

NFC has always been a solution looking for a problem to solve, with proximity payments being the only application with an obvious revenue stream. Once every phone handset has NFC then city guides and store tags start to make sense, and Google is prepared to invest in such a long-term future, but even then we can't quite imagine creating our own tags for use around the house. ®

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