For a second, I thought Qualcomm was doing something with the NFC, the NFL football conference. Guess I’m still in shock over my Cardinals making it to the Super Bowl when nobody thought they would. Nope, NFC in this case means Near Field Communication and Qualcomm is supporting it in a big way.
NFC uses low-range radio signals at 13.56MHz to transfer bits of data short distances at up to 424Kbps. My American Express card uses something similar with an RFID module: At supported locations, I simply wave my card over a reader instead of wearing out the magnetic strip. I’m not a huge fan of carrying cash, hence the worn-out credit card strips.
Qualcomm is adding NFC support to certain MSM, or Mobile Station Modem, chipsets they offer. Their MSM chipsets are commonly used in some of today’s smartphones, like many Windows Mobile devices from HTC, RIM’s BlackBerry Storm and the G1 Android handset (also made by HTC). The obvious intent here is to speed up the adoption of using portable phones for mobile payments. The news out of Qualcomm is likely “priceless” to MasterCard as they’ve been ready to adopt mobile payments since last year.
Aside from the logistics of the hardware from Qualcomm and others, there’s the valid consumer concern surrounding security. NFC-support or not, handset makers and banking institutions are faced with a huge challenge there. Consumers will need major convincing that wireless payments from a handset are safe and sound. Personally, I’m already convinced; Just ask the folks at American Express.