NFC World is reporting that Apple has picked up NFC (Near Field Communication) expert Benjamin Vigier as their new mobile commerce product manager.
What’s that all about?
Near Field Communication is close range wireless technology that allows two devices to transfer data at close range (about 10cm), which basically means you tap them together to move information. Apple’s hiring of Vigier along with a fistful of NFC patent applications would indicate that Apple is looking to add this technology to a future iPhone, perhaps even the next iPhone. TechCrunch is reporting that Apple is already testing hardware from NFC hardware leader NXP.
What does that mean to me?
Short term, it should mean that you’ll be able to pay by tap and go with your phone at Apple partners through your iTunes account. Of course, we’d imagine that the Apple Store would be first in line. Go in, grab your new MacBook Pro, fire up the checkout application on your phone, tap your phone on a pad at the sales counter, and walk away. The technology could be used anywhere from coffee shops and newspaper stands to big box retail to about anything you can buy with a credit card. People could exchange business cards with a simple phone tap.
Longer term, imagine smart shopping carts that cross items off your list as you put them in the cart. How about avoiding the lines and tapping your cart to checkout? I would imagine it will take some convincing to get retailers to start ripping out their checkout counters, but that’s the kind of stuff that is possible with NFC.
Apple won’t be the first to bring NFC to a mobile phone. There are already a handful of phones that are equipped with the technology. But, Apple will bring a ease of use to the equation and some big backing. With 150 million iTunes accounts, the momentum should be there to get retailers on board. Of course, you can expect Android and the rest of the phone world to step it up as well.
Personally, I’m not excited about paying by phone. I don’t find paying by credit/debit card or cash to be an excruciating process. NFC should be faster, but by how much? If I have to pull up the app on my old 3G, it could actually be slower. However, this is the future and I do see some other interesting uses for the technology. If you embrace it, be sure to check out my post, Personal Insecurity and lock down your phone.