Social Media has changed the world! So, has Near Field Communications (NFC). NFC, a short range wireless technology, in simple words, connects 2 points up to 10cms apart. These two points can be either two electronic devices, one electronic device and a tag or one electronic device and a contactless reader. When these two points are brought into close proximity, sharing of data can take place.
Social Media is all about sharing. Beyond connections and friendships it has brought about a change in how we search for products or services and the way we shop. NFC has followed us at home, at the office, in the shops or when we are on the move. Ranging from mobile phones, healthcare sector, retail, transit systems, payment modes and access control, it is becoming omnipresent. Now, with the charm of social media and the NFC ensuring interoperability between myriads of devices marketers, companies and retailers can achieve an entirely new level of success.
NFC technology is set out to benefit the world of marketing and consumerism. On one hand it will help retailers and marketers to provide product information comprehensively, on the other hand, it is going to ease the task of consumers to decide and shop.
Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG), indicated that in 2008, the number of things connected to the internet exceeded the number of people on Earth. This is to reach 50 billion by 2020.
Just imagine the gigantic size of data generated by all these interconnections and things. These things are not just smartphones and tablets, they are also tags, sensors, chips etc. Today, NFC enabled devices provide personalized gateways to the Internet of Things (IoT), and along with the power of social media, bridges the gap between the physical and digital/virtual world.
NFC’s capabilities are demonstrated with a single tap. Just with this one touch, it presents a challenging and opportunity-based realm of minimizing physical contact between digital and physical world.
Popular NFC Deployed Use Cases
NFC can be used in three modes, Card Emulation, Peer to Peer and Reader/Writer mode.
Reader/writer mode allows for two-way communication between various NFC-enabled devices and NFC tags. Peer-to-Peer allows for connectivity between two electronic devices (i.e. mobile phones). Card Emulation mode allows for the information contained in any number of physical cards (loyalty, credit, identification) to be uploaded onto the mobile phone and then emulated by a NFC-enabled phone.
Real Time Information on Public Transit Schedules:
The card emulation mode of NFC deployment finds one of its use cases in public transit schedules. Public transport stations are equipped with NFC-tags, these tags when tapped with NFC-enabled device pass on the information about public transport’s (bus, trams, trains etc.) schedules and delays if any. They can also have information of interest both to public transport operators as well as travelers. This can range from discounted travel offers to information about emergency calling, taxi operators, weather-reports etc.
This use case has been widely deployed in Europe, United States and Japan. It has helped improve traveler’s experience.
Food Ordering Systems:
A restaurant in the Netherlands has their menu on a NFC-enabled tablet. When this tablet is tapped to a tag on each table, the table number and the customer’s order from the menu reduces the wait time and this ensures quick food delivery. The customers have to no longer wait for waiters to take their order.
A person with his NFC-enabled phone when taps a NFC-tagged business card, can receive all the information on the business card on his phone. This NFC tag can be re-programmed to change the data on it. With more and more NFC phones coming in the market, gone are the days when a professional carries hundreds of business cards or sometimes has no business cards at all (because he forgot!).
Car Unlocking Systems:
NFC finds application in contactless door lock and ignition module. This NFC module is mounted inside the door handle as well as inside the cabin.This door handle when tapped with an NFC-enabled smartphone, the phone acts as a key. Tapping on the module in the car’s center console, the cabin, will allow the driver to turn on the engine. This NFC module will be used in vehicles from one of the leading European car maker.
Now, there is no fret to secure car keys in your trouser pocket or people do not need to panic when they often forget where their car keys are. Just secure the phone!
Public Transport Ticketing Service:
NFC enabled public transport ticketing service can be seen in Caen la Mer region of France. Travelers download a mobile ticketing app on their Cityzi NFC-enabled phones, and via a payment card linked to this app they make purchase of ticket(s). Once they are on the tram/train, tapping their phones on the ticketing machines (NFC readers), they can use the pre-bought tickets for traveling. They are also able to receive information on the number of tickets used/remaining, purchase history as well as timetables.
The Clarion Hotel Stockholm and 4 other companies including Assa Abloy joined hands to improve guest experience in hospitality industry. They replaced hotel room keys with NFC-enabled mobile phones. The guests were able to check-in and check-out with their mobile phones and their hotel room key was directly sent to their phones even before they arrived at the hotel. This pilot was very pleasantly accepted by the guests. It showed a positive attitude towards mobile keys. Guests felt by bypassing the reception at the hotel, they not only saved time but also felt as if they were living in their own apartment. After this successful first pilot, this has been adopted by many big hotel chains like Mariott.
NFC-Social Media Combo Use Cases
How about use cases of the combination of social media and NFC? Are people readily using them? Is it getting widespread attention? How the combo helps in social media engagement? Let’s take a look at few already deployed use cases for this combo.
- A pub in Sweden allows people to share their check-in information to their friends in the same place. This is only possible when these people want their friends to know about them by tapping their NFC-enabled phone to a location tag.
- The same has been done in Berlin, Germany where NFC-tags are located at several locations throughout the city. People can share their location just with a simple tap. What quicker, easier and simpler way than just a tap to let your check-in information be shared in your circle.
- The Museum of London has installed NFC tags near artefacts and several locations in the museum. Visitors with their NFC-enabled phones can learn more about these artefacts just with a simple tap. The properties of these physical products are made available to the visitors just with one simple action enriching their museum experience. The boundary between the physical world, data and real people is almost made invisible by NFC.
- Many retailers now put NFC tags on their individual products where with one simple tap the customer can retrieve all the manufacturer provided information about the product.
- NFC enables marketers, restaurant & hotel owners to do free and quick advertising. Facebook NFC Check-ins are possible with NFC-enabled devices. People go out to eat and while paying or at the table, they can just tap their phone over the NFC-tagged menu or a button, and they can relay their check-in information. For customers it didn’t take any additional action, just a tap. For hotel owners it is instant marketing.
- NFC in restaurants also helps customers read restaurant reviews and ratings using their NFC-enabled phones. More than 1500 restaurants in more than 130 French towns have provided such tags to their customers. With a single tap, this information is flashed on their phones.
- McDonald’s was one of the first to provide NFC-supported mobile coupons to its registered members. Customers were able to redeem these coupons at the restaurant sites.
- Imagine, people go to the movie theatre and while buying popcorns or tickets, can just tap to tell their friends about the movie they are about to watch! All with just one NFC tap.
The Future of Social Media-NFC combo
Envision a world where with a single tap, content and knowledge of a book is directly transferred to your brain. How much time it would save to have more fun! NFC, no doubt presents itself as a creative and interesting marketing tool to the marketers. It makes the line between the real people, data and digital world thin and subtle.
In one of the forecasts reports by Gartner, they predicted that NFC’s use for will increase from 2% of global mobile transaction volume in 2013 to 5% in 2017. 2016 will be the year that will witness growth since the penetration of NFC mobile phones and contactless readers will be deeper.
NFC technology is set out to benefit the world of marketing and consumerism. On one hand it will help retailers and marketers to provide product information comprehensively, on the other hand is going to ease the task of consumers to decide and shop.
But why NFC hasn’t been picked up like a favorite? How is the Social Media-NFC combo’s future looking? The things to be thought are various. The price, viability, trust & security etc. are some of the most concerning issues. Some more thinking points:
- When retailers put tags on products, how many tags they would have to own to put one on each product? How many individual movie tags for example would be used in the theatre?
- What is the cost and handling of these tags like? Is it the best solution to provide information about their products?
- How about the possibility of connecting this to Social Media, where buyers can like/tweet/+1/click a picture of the product with NFC-tags and share it directly in their social network.
- How many retailers are accepting NFC mobile payment without an inch of doubt? It’s noted that wherever money or payment is involved, things tend to get slower. The issue of transaction security is at the core.
- The creation of a new social media currency i.e. the payments done via NFC being posted on social network looks very exciting but is not accepted with open arms till now. Look around, how is the growth percentage? The use of Google Wallet since it’s initial release in 2011 till this date, of course is gaining volume but how slow, is surprising given the possibilities that lie ahead with NFC.
The real-world acceptance and market adoption is far slower than the benefits promised by NFC. But there is no doubt, NFC-Social Media is a powerful tool for shifting to a whole new era of marketing and promotions. Despite the slow progress and the slower acceptance, future may entail, Social Media and Marketing made easy, effective and quick with NFC.