Over a year ago we wrote a blog post titled NFC: what is it and why should you care? which outlined what NFC was and why we thought it worthy of your attention. Having had a year to muse over and play with the technology, we really do feel that it is going to be a game changer. As part of our in-house R&D program we’ve been playing with different applications of NFC, from the downright intrusive, to the fun and playful, to the sensible and thoughtful.
Take a look at the photo above: a bottle of vodka, a fashion magazine and a charity collection tin — all seemingly unrelated, except that we’ve been able to NFC enable all of these objects. The vodka bottle has an NFC tag behind the logo where the user can scan and be directed to a mobile site that gives a randomised mixer. A simple concept that ties the technology to a relevant piece of content that would be useful to the user when they interact with the product. NFC can be used this way to augment products and give them a digital presence that both expands and enhances the experience.
The fashion magazine features a printed advert with an NFC tag in the centre of the page. Here the user can place their phone on the markers scanning the NFC tag in the process and being directed to a mobile optimised site where they can browse other handbags in the collection. This is a prime example of how NFC can be applied in advertising to either directly drive sales or expand on a product line up.
The charity collection tin is a very early R&D piece experimenting with collecting mobile and wireless payments via an NFC reader embedded in the tin. We’re specifically looking to learn if people would be willing to donate in this way; if not, why not? Are there any social or technical barriers to the payment? We’ll post more when we’re further down the line.
At Digit, we think of the user first and this is always primary when we are dealing with new technologies. The first thing we discovered was that NFC technology is actually invisible in that it produces a user experience in which the user does not have to do anything — just hold their device to a NFC tag, and it works. Compared to the user journey for QR codes with the user having to open an app, scan the code and then touch to accept the result, the NFC process is almost non-existent.
This insight lead to another important finding; how do you explain to users that the product is NFC enabled? A quick Google image search produces any number of different logos all similar, but different. The is, however, an official NFC logo called the N-Mark, that is to be used to show that a product is NFC enabled. That’s a good start, but now the process of educating the public begins and this could be problematic especially when dealing with the different uses of NFC from scanning tags and being directed to content to making mobile payments.
Lastly the number of devices that support NFC is growing. It you look at this list, you’ll notice that the majority of high end Android phones now support NFC along with a host of Blackberry devices. Apple have also filed patents detailing NFC payments via a mobile device, perhaps hinting that NFC will be coming to a future version of the iPhone.
For now, we’ll be posting some videos soon, so do stay tuned.