February 9, 2016
In recent years, near field communications (NFC) – a technology that enables devices to share information wirelessly – has been widely adopted for financial and payment applications. Today, many of us are using our NFC-capable mobile phones in the grocery store checkout line, but the potential for NFC-enabled technologies extends far beyond financial transactions.
The operating range for NFC-enabled devices is between 4 and 20 centimeters. Because of this close-proximity requirement, NFC technology is inherently more secure than other communications protocols and well-suited for use in a variety of settings, providing a major market opportunity for manufacturers to develop new NFC-based products. In particular, below are five places where UL experts believe NFC technology will likely go next:
With NFC devices, individuals can distribute important documents to their colleagues, avoiding the need to print out paper copies before a meeting. And when a meeting leader arrives at the conference room, an NFC-enabled tag positioned at the front of the room could launch an application to control the projector display.
Travel documents could be stored on NFC-enabled devices and presented in-a-pinch while passengers go through security or arrive at the terminal gate. In fact, some airlines are already experimenting with electronic boarding passes on NFC-enabled smartphones for more efficient scanning and processing.
Healthcare is one of the most promising fields for NFC technologies. NFC-enabled tags can make it easier for patients to check-in for examinations and renew prescriptions. Furthermore, NFC diagnostic tags could monitor a patient’s vital signs and share that information directly with their healthcare providers.
Before patrons even get to NFC-enabled payment terminals at checkout lines, the technology can help consumers instantly retrieve product information and specifications from point-of-sale displays. In addition, NFC tags issued to frequent customers can be used to collect shopping data and incentivize purchases. For brick and mortar stores, the technology can help them capture the same shopper insights that have made online retailers successful in influencing purchasing behavior.
Some higher education institutions have already implemented NFC-based identification systems, providing students with building access and allowing them to pay for meals. More advanced applications could allow students and faculty to access computers and other devices containing private or confidential academic information.
Comprised of hundreds of member organizations worldwide dedicated to expanding the use of NFC technology, the NFC Forum has been a leader in developing NFC technical specifications for more than a decade. Through its active participation in the NFC Forum, UL is committed to the continued development and deployment of NFC technology in support of the expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT). In addition, NFC Forum sponsors a voluntary certification program for NFC-enabled devices and applications, and UL is one of two testing laboratories in North America authorized to evaluate and certify technologies for compliance.
Ultimately, manufacturers seeking to leverage NFC technology in their products and applications have no shortage of opportunity. In addition to the five places above, many settings and situations are poised for change with NFC. To learn more about current uses and the future potential of NFC technology, read the new UL whitepaper: Near Field Communications: The Current Path and the Road Ahead.