Mobile devices are increasingly becoming the ticket to a connected world for millions of people around the globe. Last year, the number of mobile devices overtook the number of people on earth, and by 2017 there will be 10 billion mobile devices – 31% more than the projected world population, according to research commissioned by Cisco Systems.
Today, we primarily use mobile phones to connect with social media, stay in contact with friends and family, manage bank accounts, find news and views online, and enjoy a myriad of other reasonably un-sophisticated functions.
However, the rapidly growing availability of Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled consumables – it has been predicted by ReporternReports that the global NFC market is anticipated to reach US $16.25 billion by 2022, growing at 8.83 percent CAGR (compound annual growth rate) – is set to revolutionise the way we use and view our mobile devices.
Soon, consumers will be able to control household appliances, monitor household energy usage, open car doors, order replacement parts and take home entertainment to a whole new level as NFC enabled consumables make the Internet of Things (IoT) a reality. Our mobile device will increasingly become the ‘remote control for our lives’ – and we will become reliant on our phones for far more than primarily human contact.
NFC is an amazing technology that allows a powered device (the ‘reader’, for example your smart phone) to read information from or write information to another device (the ‘tag’). The potential applications for NFC are endless and the benefits are many and varied – NFC is easy to use, allows consumers to use a familiar device to control everything in one place, is free of unnecessary wires, disks and bulky hardware, has high security and privacy levels, is low cost and boasts high energy efficiency.
In a world where energy efficiency is key, power consumption is an important consideration – as is affordability. With NFC, energy harvested from the field of the reader powers the tag, enabling connectivity for Internet of Things devices without using batteries or power. This energy harvesting feature enables a number of low-power and low-cost applications, in turn reducing the cost of materials and driving affordability for consumers.
Security and privacy are also key considerations for consumers. Almost every week we read high-profile hacking stories in the news—most recently Heartbleed and eBay’s critical data breach. It is no surprise that we are concerned for the safety of our data. As we become more reliant on mobile devices we need to be aware of security issues and feel confident in the technology we use.
NFC is specifically engineered to maximise security and privacy. By design, NFC has a limited field of operation, which prevents data snooping that could occur from a distance. It also requires intent—the application of a specific NFC-enabled device to a specific NFC-enabled object in order to read its memory. This approach contrasts with protocols such as WiFi, which broadcasts information regardless of intent. NFC’s limited field, plus other features of the protocol, helps to ensure that data exchange only occurs with the intended party.
As organisations around the world become more aware of the benefits NFC provides and adopt this emerging technology to enrich the consumer experience, NFC will revolutionise our use as consumers of mobile devices – driving an easier, more integrated and connected lifestyle for all of us.