Brendan McKeegan

The mobile phone as a mobile wallet and smart card? The technology is closer than you think.

How close is Near?

While in Chicago last week I met with Motorola to discuss some of the technology on the horizon for mobile handsets. One of the key technologies currently being trialled is Near Field Communications (NFC).

NFC is a standards-based, short range (a few centimetres) wireless connectivity technology. It will allow consumers to perform safe, contactless transactions, access digital content and connect electronic devices with a single touch.

The reason I mention this technology is because there has been a long-running discussion around the mobile handset becoming a ubiquitous device providing many seamless applications beyond telecommunications. Until now, I’ve always considered this a rather hollow promise. NFC has the potential to change this and I guarantee you’ll hear a lot of noise around this technology in the next 12 months.

Some of the applications being touted for NFC include a Mobile Wallet that can provide such features as mobile banking, money transfer, proximity payment, pre-paid credit and peer-to-peer lending. Kind of adds a new spin on asking your mate to “lend” you a fiver!

Taking the concept a little further, there is no reason why I can’t receive my purchase invoice via NFC, which in-turn becomes my warranty for the product. Add to that the loyalty points that can be automatically accumulated and stored on my phone for later use in the form of discounts. The possibilities and implications are both obvious and inevitable.

The only downside I can think of is that we will lose the art of proving spare change to our kids as pocket money for tidying their room; they’ll simply corner us and request that we authorise a transaction between our mobile phone and theirs. Hmmm … I wonder what the tooth fairy will make of that!


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