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NFC! What Is It Good For? Here Are 5 Uses

By Matt Smith2013-01-31

If your phone doesn’t already have a Near-Field Communication chip in it, your next one probably will. High-end Android handsets are quickly adopting the tech and while Apple has so far shrugged it off, adoption of NFC by the iPhone would be easy to implement. Apple’s neglect from NFC seems to stem from its limited application in the real world thus far. The most appealing ideas are exactly that.

There are some real-world uses of NFC that you can try right now, however. You may even be surprised by what you can accomplish – if you’re willing to do a little research and a little work.

Make Payments

Google Wallet was meant to give mobile payment a recognizable face and drive consumer demand. It was NFC’s killer app. Security concerns gave the app bad press, however, and it has languished outside of the spotlight ever since.

That doesn’t mean Google Wallet has gone away. It’s still around and it supports all major credit cards. Partner stores include Macy’s, Subway, and Toys “R” Us, among many others. Some of the most notable partners are the cities. San Francisco, for example, now supports payment via NFC at many parking meters.

NFC payments are a long way from replacing debit and credit cards, of course, but the technology seems to expand every month. More phones and more partners mean more places and ways to use it. Perhaps it will one day be popular enough to truly replace the wallet.

Control Your Smartphone With Tags

The small size of an NFC chip makes it possible to place one almost anywhere. In the future tags may be embedded in many products and public places. For now, however, you’ll have to be content with buying your own tags and placing them yourself.

Samsung’s TecTiles are an example of this technology in action. These small plastic tiles work with Samsung phones to activate user-specified functions. Users can program their phone to launch an app when placed on a table or toggle music playback when placed in the home entertainment center. These actions are programmed using a surprisingly simple app.

Don’t own a Samsung phone? That’s okay. Smaller companies like Droid Tiles have appeared to provide vendor-agnostic tags. These are also programmed via an app.

Share Files

Most NFC phones have the ability to share files by bumping them together. Samsung has shown this in commercials for its products, but it’s not a feature exclusive to them. Most Android phones with NFC can support this via either a bundled or third-party app.

Connect A Keyboard Or Mouse

The crazy looking device shown above is the world’s first NFC keyboard. The idea is simple. Just place an NFC-capable Android phone in the middle of the keyboard and – presto! You can now type on your smartphone. The keyboard can even be folded away when it isn’t in use.

One other NFC peripheral exists – HP’s NFC mouse, which is affordable at just $40. Smartphone productivity freaks shouldn’t become too excited, however, because the mouse is meant for NFC capable laptops like the HP Envy Spectre.

Visit A Museum

Museums may seem an old place to use technology, yet they’re often at the cutting edge. Museums have adopted smartphones to enhance tours via audio tracks and often use touchscreens to provide interactive exhibits.

NFC is just an evolutionary step. Some museums, like the Museum of London, are beginning to offer it as a way of providing extra information for exhibits. That’s not much different from the guide audio or text tours that museums have long offered, but it does provide more freedom. Rather than following a specific path dictated by the guide visitors can go wherever they’d like and use NFC to call up extra information.

Limited Use, Unlimited Potential

Not wowed by NFC? I don’t blame you. The truth is that, despite its potential, the technology is still limited by the harsh realities of adoption and cost. It remains a feature that only a few high-end Android handsets have and the tags used with them, though inexpensive, aren’t free. The full potential of the technology won’t be unlocked until a majority of smartphones offer it as a standard feature.


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