The Bold War

Weapon of Mass Disruption

Will they, won’t they? Maybe, Yes…No? Sooner or later…There has been a lot of debate about whether Apple will include NFC in the new iPhone 5.  Some analysts have drawn conclusions from the launch of the Passbook wallet service that it will happen.  I don’t know if it will happen tomorrow, I hope it does, but the debate about whether Apple will do it at all must surely subside.  NFC will be included in Apple devices at some stage, not just because of payments, but for so much more.  NFC at its core is a service that allows instant and secure communication over short distances.  By enabling this capability, Apple will create a whole new paradigm in its ‘App Economy’ and further allow developers to create, be creative and monetise their app services.

There has been a lot of publicity over the last few years around the potential benefits of NFC in payments and shopping.  Whilst we should all be excited about its application in commerce, it is only 1 per cent of what it can be used for.  NFC can in effect become our sixth sense.  It can augment our ability to see, hear, touch, smell and taste by providing us with information about products and services at the tap of a mobile.  There should be no doubt that at some stage NFC will be available in every single mobile phone, as common as a camera or email.  Not having NFC will be like not having access to one your senses in the future.  This is what makes NFC so exciting from a consumer’s perspective. This is what makes NFC so exciting for Apple.  

A lot of people have connected the adoption of NFC with payments.  I am sure Apple has thought more broadly than this, and whilst the service may very well be launched off the back of an ‘iWallet’ its end game will be much more significant.   It can integrate the digital and physical worlds because it can be attached to anything ‘unconnected’ and make it connected.   With Apple managing a more secure operating system, and responsible for hardware, NFC will intrinsically be a much safer proposition for consumers in their ecosystem.  Having it enabled in the next iPhone device is a big step because it enables multiple applications to access NFC from the one single source.  Instead of having separate oyster, work pass and zip car passes, they could all exist on the one device.

If Apple was to launch NFC I would expect a hockey stick moment very rapidly.  At a recent event I was asked about when NFC would become mainstream?  I said 12 months.  Whilst to some this might some incredulous, things can literally change overnight and whether you believe it or not, most major Banks, Retailers and Telco’s are busy behind the scenes working on projects in this space.  There is no doubt if Apple was to make a service available that we would be hearing a lot of ‘pivots’.  Once it happens, it will happen rapidly, and within a year most existing apps will be incorporating and utilising the NFC element.  Whilst my predication does not mean everyone will be using it, it does mean you will readily be able to.

Here are some ideas about where else NFC could be utilised by Apple and developers to disrupt business beyond payments and commerce.

1. Accommodation

Imagine booking a hotel room and just going straight to your room when you arrived.  Access to the room could be provided remotely.  You would simply tap your device at the door.  No more late night front desk staff and no more queuing to check in with information you’re already provided online.  This could also change the whole short-term rental model.  No more landlord interaction...

2. Home Access

No more keys or having to be home to collect goods.  Through new apps you will be able to provide access remotely.  Really useful for letting in your plumber to fix the shower or to get your latest shopping delivery dropped off.  This will also be able to link to information that tracks when someone has left or entered your home.

3. Gym

Tap at the start of a session to enter the gym.  Access the spa with your device.  No more worries about lost membership cards.  You could even tap equipment so you can track your progress and set goals i.e.  Number of sets, repetitions and weights.  By tapping on equipment it could also let other members know that the piece of equipment is being used.

4. Parking

No more annoying tickets and dashboard displays.  No more remembering to pay before you collect your car.  You could even tap a NFC reader at your parking spot that reminds you of where the car is located and that the space is taken. You could then use your mobile to tap on entry and pay on exit.

Let me know about any other ideas you have…

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