Expanding boundaries with Near Field Communication



Exciting new applications enabled by NFC

There is always much speculation about the next big thing in Near Field Communication (NFC), with some pointing to payments as the main driver of adoption.  Others focus on the ability of NFC to create frictionless and engaging customer experiences that add value to consumers’ everyday activities like storing loyalty cards in one place, getting instantaneous information about transit schedules, checking in at events and venues, and sharing information via social media using your NFC-enabled smart phone. In my opinion, it is a combination of both kinds of applications that will drive ubiquitous NFC adoption. That being said, consumers are the key players for pushing NFC forward, requiring that companies implement solutions and applications that provide a valuable customer experience.  The challenge is how to educate both consumers and businesses on the value of the technology and its uses in all kinds of applications and environments.

This education is, and will continue to be, a phased approach.  We’ve seen it hit the mass consumer market through the efforts of Samsung and its commercials with the introduction of the Galaxy 3. A memorable campaign to be sure; and one that targeted consumers and, indirectly, business leaders — who are now thinking of ways in which they can engage their customers using NFC. Other implementations that have served to educate the consumer market (which business leaders should take note of) is the Rock the Vote campaign which we featured in previous blogs.  NFC Bootcamp sponsor Blue Bite was an integral part of this campaign. There are also numerous out-of-home marketing campaigns where leaders in mobile marketing are already leveraging NFC technology to deliver customized user experiences via smart posters, such as special offers and coupons, social media check-ins, event networking and information … and the possibilities are endless. Here we will discuss two examples of NFC applications, applied in completely different settings and scenarios.

Social Engagement and Business

We are seeing more non-mobile wallet/non-payment-based NFC applications hitting the market— applications that have broad appeal to the smart device community.  One of these applications is CheckinDJ, an interactive jukebox that uses NFC check-ins and social networking accounts that allow groups of friends to choose what music should be played inside a pub or disco.  The play list combines the preferences of everyone present at the location at a particular time. Users can register by linking their NFC-enabled device with social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare. Then, they can select up to three music genres that will affect the general playlist using a system of influence. Each user receives a plus one influence for each social networking account they link, and subsequent plus one influences for each of their friends who are checked in. CheckinDJ has a time restriction built into the application to ensure that users cannot continuously check in to influence the play list, and streams the music through the online service Spotify.  From a consumer perspective, this application provides a new, social experience participating with friends in influencing the music play list heard during the next few hours. This is a great example of NFC creating a customer experience within a social environment.

But there is more—expanding the boundaries with NFC.  From a business perspective, the club, pub or restaurant can gain new revenue streams from advertising through this type of application interface. The business owner also gains insight into customers’ preferences and buying habits enabling that business to develop a highly customized experience for its patrons.  This builds brand engagement, resulting in more interaction and more revenue.

Health and Medical Safety

Another example of expanding boundaries with NFC — and in a completely different application —is the NFC medication tracking system developed by Harvard Medical School and being tested at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston, Massachusetts. This new application allows nurses to administer medication to patients quicker, easier, safely and more cost-effectively.

The NFC medication tracking system works by using NFC tags that are attached to patients’ wristbands, to the medications being dispensed and to the nurses’ ID badges. The nurses simply need to tap an NFC-enabled table to the patient’s wristband, the medication and to their own ID badges. The application on the tablet checks to ensure the medication and dosage is correct for the patient. The application also records which medications have been administered to the patient and by whom, increasing efficiency and safety, as well as streamlining paperwork for the billing process.

“If we can make that process easier, safer and faster as well as being more cost-effective, then NFC is a technology a lot of hospitals will be interesting in using, which is why we have conducted the trial,” said Dr. Adam Landman, Director of Clinical Informatics for BWH’s Emergency Medicine Department, and leader of the system developer team.

Expanding Boundaries and Adoption

It is important to keep in mind that NFC technology is not a consumer-focused fad designed for the smart phone generation.  It’s about engagement, information delivery, convenience, efficiency and customer experience.  With the two examples discussed in this blog, we get a glimpse of the broad spectrum of uses — from social and entertainment to medical safety. As consumer education is key to adoption, business and organizational education becomes the driving force in implementation. The second phase of education is teaching organizations the power of NFC in driving business results. Marketers can obtain insightful analytics and business intelligence about their target audience. Businesses can learn about buying habits and customer preferences. Healthcare providers can streamline paperwork and focus on patient care. So many possibilities exist that can be implemented in a non-invasive and interactive way. With the ever-growing number of NFC-enabled devices in the hands of consumers, new ways of engagement and information dissemination become critical for companies to undertake.  These should be seen as competitive advantages and as an integral part of every company’s strategy if they wish to connect to a new wave of consumers that are pushing the boundaries of connecting their physical world with their virtual world.

About the Author:

Robert P. Sabella brings over 20 years of legal and entrepreneurial experience to OTA Ventures and is considered one of the most innovative leaders in developing and bringing new technologies to market.  OTA Ventures is a combination companies that are synergistic in their focus and that leverage common infrastructure, both physical and intellectual. Mr. Sabella is also founder and CEO of OTA Training, LLC, the producer of the NFC Bootcamp™ training series, and has recently co-founded the AccelerateNFC incubator program, dedicated to fostering start-ups in bringing NFC technology to the market.

[Editor’s note: We wish to thank Izan Coomonte Suárez for his assistance and research in pulling this article together.]


One Comment:

  1. I really love the medication dispensing application of NFC, I think that there are some very simple solutions that can bring a lot of value to hospital operations. We’ve considered this space since we are close to many hospitals here in Toronto’s Discovery District, but I wonder if giving nurses and other staff NFC phones is a barrier.

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