back to article NFC fails to find its killer app

VingCard and Lancaster University have been crowned winners of the NFC Forum's Touch the Future competition, to reward the most compelling NFC applications around the world. Announced last night, the winners were selected from 50 entries from 21 different countries. The competition was split into commercial and research …

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Anonymous Coward

NFC = Near Field Communication

Obviously had to look it up, since you don't see it anywhere.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_Field_Communication

>The guest then uses their phone to unlock their room

Flat battery?

IR?

Bluetooth?

You could just phone up the hotel exchange, tap in a pin and press 1 for "open door", then the wife and kids can get in the room without you.

>More useful would be the ability to transfer directions or maps from the kiosk to the handset

Bluetooth might be more suitable and phones already support it.

>Few would deny that NFC is a cool technology, but it hasn't found its killer app yet

Or in fact any app that can't already be done with an existing and well supported tech.

The whole thing is a solution looking for a problem.

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Silver badge

Use NFC to:

Pair to a bluetooth device by touching it

Get WPA key from a WiFi router by touching it

Pointless for anything else?

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Potential of NFC

>The whole thing is a solution looking for a problem.

No. NFC has more in stall than other technologies. It is a lot more secure than BT or IR, which is why most people equate NFC with banking/payment applications. The phone has a secure element which can't be accessed by any old Bluetooth transmitter/receiver in the vicinity. Touch has a completely different level of personalisation, privacy and locality.

Also, RFID, which is a related format, is already being used all over the world for lots of contact-related things, and many more goods with in-built RFID tags for identification and tracking are being made every day.

Not saying there is any killer app yet, but there are good reasons why people are excited about it.

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Anonymous Coward

Touch..

Interesting you compare with RFID, although as you know RFID has a range far greater than is often intended.

Yeah, the banking thing is a nice idea, but you can do the same with exisitng tech:-

Scan a barcode indicating price, and pay point. (Phone camera)

Phone connects to bank with price, and vendor info.

User verifies payment, hits pay button.

Bank verifies payment to vendor via phone network.

Item paid for, Receipt on the phone, pops out of kiosk.

All in one J2ME app, I don't even need a new phone.

BT Security could be improved, just layering serious encryption over it would make a big impact and can happen at the application level. The security of whatever standardisation of NFC finally comes about is as yet untested.

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Coat

"sensitive" information

>"though unless you don't want the person behind you to know you're looking up the local brothel, it's hard to see what sensitive information one shares with a tourist information kiosk."

Maybe you'd be looking up the address of the local STD clinic?

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Anonymous Coward

Well

Flat battery? The residual charge in the battery after the phone turns itself off is sufficient to drive the NFC circuitry. Not enough power to power the phone, but enough to power the NFC.

Bluetooth? You want to pair your phone with a door handle? Bluetooth is far from useful for a one-off or 'instant' use.

Phoning up? So you need to make a phone call every time you want to enter your room?

NFC has it's place - and I see a real benefit of being able to download/SMS a room entry card onto your phone. Companies like self-service as it can reduce staffing levels - look at the self-service checkouts at Tesco etc. Saves entry cards being lost etc.

There's plenty of things in life which can be done another way but doesn't stop people wanting to do things differently, particularly if it can improve things.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC

>Flat battery? The residual charge in the battery after the phone turns itself off

>is sufficient to drive the NFC circuitry. Not enough power to power the phone,

>but enough to power the NFC.

You still need the CPU and O/S of the phone though!

And quite possibly the display.

>Bluetooth? You want to pair your phone with a door handle? Bluetooth is far from useful for a one-off or 'instant' use.

An app could make that very simple.

You would have to download said app, but it's easier to download something than buy a new phone.

>So you need to make a phone call every time you want to enter your room?

Why not, on speed dial it's a handful of button pushes. It's not like a voice call it's fully automated, I can use any phone, it's doable now, not at some distant future point.

BTW Formula 1 motels already do self service, they don't use NFC.

>There's plenty of things in life which can be done another way but doesn't

>stop people wanting to do things differently, particularly if it can improve things.

No, it's always good to see an innovative approach, but really the stuff suggested could be done now, but isn't because people are dicking about with something that's broadly useless.

Self service systems are good when everybody can use them, if it's only half the people you need a desk anyway and the gain is small.

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Coat

Killer app for modern technology?

Try advertising or pron!

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Coat

Theft risk

Trouble with NFC in phones is that it makes you get your phone out. On one hand we have the Police saying that we shouldn't show phones and other valuables at places like railway stations because there are thieves waiting there. Then we have the likes of Nokia incorporating payment and access control applications in them so we.... get them out at the station.

The incorporation of cash value into devices like phones makes them even more desirable to thieves. Now, if someone takes my phone from my pocket in a hotel restaurant I've lost a phone and the cost of however many phone calls they make before I notice it's missing. When I have NFC, the thief will look at my text messages, find out which room is mine from the booking text (which we know most people will keep on the phone), take the phone to my room, unlock the door and help himself to my laptop (too big to fit in the room safe) and anything else he happens to like the look of from my cases.

Am I the only person who thinks this is a bad idea?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Theft risk

Good point, even if the thief doesn't go to your room, you still can't get in yourself.

>Am I the only person who thinks this is a bad idea?

Erm... Did you read the other comments?

@Previous AC

>So you need to make a phone call every time you want to enter your room?

Actually it doesn't even need the PIN, caller ID would let it know which door to open, so all you have to do is dial, it wouldn't even need to pick up.

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It might just make things easier for the user

>You still need the CPU and O/S of the phone though! And quite possibly the display.

Not true. NFC elements are both passive and active (not like passive RFIDs), so your app can write the pass code to it and can then be read by an external active reader.

>>Bluetooth? You want to pair your phone with a door handle? Bluetooth is far from useful for a one-off or 'instant' use.

>An app could make that very simple.

Come on JonB, you can't tell me that just touching the handle with your device is not easier than running a J2ME app which pairs it with the door. I hear what you're saying about a technology that isn't quite mature yet, but you're being disingenuous now.

I'm a big fan of bar codes, but again, they're not quite there either (which user knows how to use a barcode-reading app on their phone?) The huge success of Oyster cards in London has shown that people seem to like the whole touch thing.

About the security issues, I don't feel totally comfortable with having my bank card embedded in my phone either, but by the same token I could say that the Oyster cards would never catch on because if someone nicks mine, they can use up all the pre-pay credit on it. Well, they could, yes, but sometimes benefits outweigh risks.

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Stop

@JonB

NFC doesn't require the phone CPU or display. It makes them act like any other contact-less/RFID card - eg. Oyster etc. Yes, you can get J2ME apps to drive the NFC interface, adding the ability to get user input etc - but it's not required for what NFC is used for in many cases (eg. transportation and payments).

RFID snooping receive distances are overrated. What's possible in controlled conditions within a Faraday cage in a lab is very different to what is possible in a retail or transportation setting. And there are security features which means that whilst you can in theory read the card details, you can't use them for anything as the details are only valid for contact-less transactions (so no writing to mag-stripe) and without the (non-accessible) private keys on the card, you can't copy the important bits of the card to be able to complete a real contact-less payment.

As I said - dialling (even speed dial) is still too much hassle to get into a room, particularly if the existing system is card based. Pull card, insert (or touch) card, go in gets replaced with Pull phone, touch and go in (all without having to actually check in and get a card). Your suggestion is pull phone, press+hold speed dial, wait 5 seconds for call to dial, connect and answer, wait for prompt, enter PIN, wait for prompt, enter 1 to open door.... all doing this whilst hanging onto your bags.

And BTW, your suggestion about using the phone's camera to purchase things relies on the ability for companies to bill for products against a mobile number (or some other stored payment information against a service you connect to), requires the phone to have an active internet connection, the picture to be taken clearly, and a call to not come in part way through (thus dropping GPRS) etc - in effect - making it a far slower and flaky transaction. NFC however would allow the whole process of paying to be done in less than a second + time to print receipt. Whether terminal is online or offline it makes little difference, but far more likely that a terminal will have a connection and perform an online transaction quicker than a phone can.

As for not requiring a new phone - that's assuming the phone's Java implementation supports the JSRs for image capture, or Bluetooth access etc. It's far from universal support on lower end handsets - so certainly not a "works with all phones" proposition. Whilst NFC is far from universal - currently, if they support NFC, they support access to it from Java.

The point that many people don't have these devices doesn't stop it being a good idea, or that it'll take off. Once there's services out there for it, more people will take it up. The first guy to get a telephone installed didn't have anyone to call (so why did he install it?) - but look where telecoms are now.

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Anonymous Coward

@Wolf Luecker

>NFC elements are both passive and active (not like passive RFIDs), so your app

>can write the pass code to it and can then be read by an external active reader.

The problem there though is that your pass code becomes static, and may be guessed or copied.

>you can't tell me that just touching the handle with your device is not easier than

>running a J2ME app which pairs it with the door.

No, I can't tell you that.. ;) The tactile prod it thing is a nice interface.

But the BT + App combo can be done now, and the alternative still requires

moving the pass code from SMS to the NFC device so some kind of app there too.

Why not just use a credit card reader and say the booked credit card can open the door?

I may be proved wrong, but I've seen a few of these type of things come and go.. Actually I think BT was once claimed to be the thing for all this malarky..

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@JonB

Caller ID auto opening your door? Accidentally dial the last number called whilst you're walking around town - and some guy walking past your room can just stroll in...

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Anonymous Coward

@AC (Use a name gutless buggers)

>your suggestion about using the phone's camera to purchase things relies

>on the ability for companies to bill for products against a mobile number

>(or some other stored payment information against a service you connect to),

It requires your phone to accept a pin and send a message to your bank.

>requires the phone to have an active internet connection

Well, it requires the phone to have a _network_ connection, not internet at all.

>the picture to be taken clearly

Enough for the phone to register a barcode, if that fails then they can enter the bar code manually. Entering a barcode isn't a challenge.

>and a call to not come in part way through

Not really, the connection doesn't have to be open a long time.

On the phone.

1. User fires up purchasing app.

2. User scans barcode.

3. Phone displays price and other purchase info gleaned from the code. Asks for PIN.

4. User enters PIN.

5. Phone sends single encrypted message to bank service, with price, item, and vendor info.

6. Bank sends single message indicating success or failure of transaction.

At the bank.

1. Bank receives encrypted payment request.

2. Bank authorises payment.

3. Bank sends message over their network authorising vendor.

For the vendor.

1. Receive purchase request and payment authorisation from bank.

2. Give product.

The other plus point here is that the vendor doesn't need to know the who the seller is. Oh, and you don't need a camera API, you can enter the barcode through the keypad.

Good points on the passive nature of NFC I hadn't gleaned that from the article.

>The first guy to get a telephone installed didn't have anyone to call

They never installed just the one phone!

Regarding room entry, the Formula 1 chain in France already does self service, have a look at how they do it, and then decide if you really need a special telephone for it.

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Anything people do now, for which they currently need a separate tool.

Oyster-card-in-a-phone

Self-service-check-out (Depends how secure the app is in a stolen phone)

Office security door fobs

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NFC

Wish I had this for where I work

Would be a lot easier than having to hang something round my neck to go through reader after reader (as all the doors are access controlled using RFID)

A regards new phones, the operators should cough up for the SIMs with this integrated.

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Osaifu-Keitai

Japan and South Korea have been using mobile payment/access technologies for years, my preference would be to forgo NFC and adopt the more tried and tested Osaifu-Keitai technologies that are now approaching their third commercially deployed versions unlike NFC, that hasn’t changed much since being passed around research labs years ago.

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