Taps For NFC?

In a group discussion provocatively titled “NFC (No Freakin’ Chance)” a crowded room of about 80 folks tackled the topic of when or whether Near Field Communication was going to take off.

Some interesting real world uses of NFC were given to show that the technology is making inroads. One was a campaign for Starbucks in China, where if 20,000 people NFC tapped in-store, everyone would get free up-sized drinks for a week (they hit their goal). In another implementation from Nokia, as you arrive home listening to a song on your device, you can tap it to a special tag that triggers the same song to start playing on your home stereo, thus seemingly tapping the song from one device to the other.

An interesting point was made about how NFC has spread in Japan in particular. In Japan, rather than the banks, it has been the train companies that have taken the lead in pushing NFC and tapability. But obviously the technology is still not widespread on a worldwide basis. An attendee from Bank of America pointed to studies that show the threshold for successful electronic forms of payment seems to be three steps. Any more than three steps, and the vast majority of people will just pull out their real wallet.

The central debate of the session revolved around not whether NFC would take off (most agreed it would) but how. One point of view was that payments were key, that people wouldn’t rabidly embrace the technology until the financial industry got behind it and used their marketing muscle to push the new behavior. The other perspective is that the financial giants are being too slow about embracing NFC, and other applications such as home automation, marketing or entertainment/games will zoom out ahead as the catalysts for NFC adoption.

From my perspective, the chicken & egg debate is a bit less important for marketers as realizing that a few years from now we’ll live in a world with both chickens and eggs and it won’t matter a whole lot which came first.

Quote of the day during Q&A when folks were introducing themselves:
“Hello I’m Marcus, I’m from Nokia. We do mobile phones.”