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Summary:

Near Field Communications, a point-to-point communications technology that can send data a few inches, is back. Yesterday Nokia said it would embed NFC chips in all of its phones and Broadcom said it would spend $47.5 million on a company with NFC expertise.

Near Field Communications, the standard for the wireless transfer of data between devices mere inches apart using a point-to-point radio, appears to be making a comeback. Yesterday Nokia said it would embed NFC chips in all of its phones and Broadcom said it would pay $47.5 million for Innovision, citing the company’s NFC chip expertise.

Although NFC has long been seen as the best way to offer secure mobile payments via a cell phone as well as a way to deliver product information much like a bar code does, it’s never managed to achieve widespread adoption (GigaOM Pro, sub req’d). The issue was getting the radios inside enough phones so that companies felt it was worth investing in NFC readers — in other words, a classic chicken-and-egg problem.

But with Nokia committing to the market (it was one of the first handset makers to try out the tech back in 2003) and Broadcom’s buy, there’s a significant opportunity to jump-start demand. Despite its downward slide, Nokia still sells millions of phones worldwide, and Broadcom’s expertise in cramming multiple radios on an integrated chip means its could offer a combo of radios (including NFC) on just one chip, which would make it less expensive to add NFC to a phone. The combo of more phones and NFC functionality for less may be enough to tip the market and ensure NFC becomes as common as Bluetooth.

But I’m not going to get too excited. After all, Nokia scrapped its last round of NFC phone plans as recently as February, and I’ve sat through the NFC hype cycle before. Broadcom may have spent money buying an NFC player, but $47.5 million isn’t so big that Broadcom can’t afford to write it down, if NFC doesn’t take off. Plus, China Mobile with its 500 million users is backing a rival technology called RF SIM, and that kind of market can be hard to ignore.

  1. Please explain to me why existing bluetooth communications cannot be used instead of NFC?
    Is not bluetooth a form of point-to-point radio?
    I realize that pairs of bluetooth-enabled devices have to sync-up, but why not find a way for bluetooth to quickly synch-up for the purpose of a financial transactions, while using strong encryption?

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  2. [...] Will Near Field Communications Rise From the Dead? [...]

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  3. [...] Enole’s “universal sign-on for the world” API has been live since December, and the first implementations are coming out now. Co-founder Kurt Collins came by our office yesterday and showed me a few examples: In one called Viploc, a Mac is set to lock itself when it’s not in Bluetooth range of its owner’s mobile phone. So when the phone is not present (or its Bluetooth is turned off), the computer logs out of its current session. In another demo, an iPad app called ZapCash, users can send each other money when they are in proximity of each other. This will also work with near-field communications (NFC) chips as they’re rolled out to more phones. [...]

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  4. [...] future iPhones into mobile wallets by using short-range wireless signals. Some handset companies, such as Nokia, have recently invested in NFC for mobile handsets, but adoption is slow at best, even though mobile payment transactions are expected to reach $633 [...]

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  5. [...] many mobile payments companies rely on emerging technology like near-field communications, integrate with mobile phone bills and their usurious convenience fees, or require store owners to [...]

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  6. [...] considering NFC would replace physical credit cards. Iddison pointed to Nokia’s inclusion of NFC in all its phones, indications that Apple and Google are getting in on the game, and reports from [...]

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  7. [...] no mistake, there’s definitely big momentum behind NFC. Nokia has already started shipping phones with NFC. And if Apple is rumored to be looking at including NFC in its next iPhone release. [...]

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