Near Field Communication really is expanding into more industries than just mobile marketing



In the past weeks, I’ve read plenty of articles and news about NFC, and my immediate thoughts were that near field communication technology is being leveraged in so many industries, from leisure and entertainment to healthcare, from transit to advertising, and more.

And while many of us in the industry have been touting the many different applications to leverage NFC for a few years, the lifecycle on implementation is relatively young as many companies are just now developing solutions that generate value within their industries and sectors. And as these companies invest in processes and infrastructures that enhance customer experience, they are finding more avenues to customer delight are generated through NFC technologies and its capabilities. In a recent blog post, I discussed how expanding the boundaries of NFC technology is a combination of both payment applications and non-payments that will drive ubiquitous NFC adoption with consumers being key players in pushing NFC forward as they demand solutions and applications that provide a valuable customer experience — experiences that generate value as consumers interactive with companies.  And much of the industry news I’ve read recently points to that fact.

For example, in the health industry, the mobile healthcare specialist Gentag and IT systems supplier Advanced Health & Care announced the worldwide availability of an NFC phone designed to be used for monitoring home visits made by care workers. This mobile phone allows real-time task lists to be sent to care workers and also records their arrival and departure times at a patient’s home.

Talking about the entertainment and leisure industry, Adaire Fox-Martin, said in her blog, The tech-savvy casino: Customer experience redefined that “Near Field Communication (NFC) are already available and can revolutionize not just the way casino businesses are run for the better but also redefine and refine with precision the total customer experience.”

In retail, the Wafi shopping mall in Dubai is introducing a new service that allows shoppers to collect and redeem loyalty points with their mobile phone using either NFC or Bluetooth. In an article published at Emirates 24/7 Souffiane Houti, founder and CEO of ViaFone Technologies, said, “We believe the technology delivers a win-win situation for both merchants and consumers.” Houti added,  “It is a highly efficient and secure way for merchants to extend their existing point of sale, building profiles of their customers and getting them to dig deeper into their behavior and shopping habits. It is also more environmentally friendly, eliminating — over time — the need for plastic cards.”

In looking a facilities management, Malpensa Airport in Milan, Italy, has installed a new maintenance system that uses NFC phones and a network of 50,000 NFC and RFID tags attached to equipment and systems like fire extinguishers, elevators, sprinklers and boarding bridges. Maintenance employees can tap these tags with an NFC device to check in and out of locations.  This notifies the back office that planned maintenance and repairs are being done — in real-time. The tags also allow access to documents like checklists, technical specs and other information employees may need to complete their work.

Another use in the airline industry is Japanese Airline’s use of NFC. In a recent article published at, Koichi Tagawa of Sony and Chairman of the NFC Forum noted that the customer experience in airports has been enhanced where NFC technology has shortened the boarding process of a 450-person plane to just 15 minutes— a process that normally takes 40 minutes without the use of NFC.

We’re already quite familiar with the use of NFC in the advertising industry.  Most recently we’ve seen the buzz around outdoor wear manufacturer JanSport. JanSport’s latest ad campaign in New York combines Blue Bite’s mTag© NFC platform, San Francisco-based Teak’s signage and out-of-home media buyer Kinetic’s consultancy. The interactive signage showed up on Cemusa newstands and transit shelters, and allows users to download custom video content from JanSport and listen to free music from local bands — just by tapping their NFC phones to a tag or scanning a QR code.

near field communication ad campaign

JanSport outdoor ad campaign in NYC.

This kind of interactive marketing — one of many campaigns we’ve seen over the past year — enriches the experience between the brand and its consumers by providing exclusive entertaining content.

And last but not least, the transit industry is leveraging the power of NFC technology. For example, a total of 500 bus stops in the city of Madrid became “smart” by incorporating NFC touch points and other technologies such as QR codes.  This allow tourists and citizens to quickly and easily get information about bus schedules, tourist attractions, monuments, and more — again, just with the tap of an NFC-enabled phone.

In a press release from the SmartCard Alliance on May 17 of this year, Mohamed Awad of Broadcom and vice chairman of the NFC Forum said, “NFC should create, communicate and deliver value to customers.” He added, “There are several use cases where organizations are communicating the value of products to customers by differentiating with NFC, including smart home appliances, interactive games, travel services, opt-in magazine ads, and even tombstones.”

So while the pundits may continue to allude to why NFC isn’t catching on, or that NFC will not take off until companies like Apple buy in to the technology, we truly are seeing more uses and more implementations rolling out globally in more industries than ever before.

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

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.

Robert Sabella

Robert P. Sabella has 20+ years of legal and entrepreneurial experience and is considered one of the most innovative leaders in developing and bringing new technologies to market. He is the founder 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. He is co-author of RFID+™ and a prolific writer and speaker on NFC and RFID.


  1. I appreciate the sunny predictions and reviews of all the cool new worldwide usages. At the same time, with regard to the use by advertisers, one has to wonder why uptake by brands and agencies has been so slow; most notably here in the US. I’m left to wonder why no mention is ever given to actual response data from these campaigns. Probably because the numbers are appallingly low…certainly not enough to impress a major brand or anyone looking beyond the mere mention of innovation.

    The truth is- no marketer worth his salt is gonna agree to spend hard cash on a technology that instantly removes 50-75% of its audience from the campaign. COME ON folks, let’s be real for a sec. Even if android and windows enjoy collective advantage over iOS- we all know that most of those phones aren’t activated yet- in market or worse, with a user base even aware of what they have in hand.

    In the absence of material numbers- anyone willing to be the test pilot will need to agree to the ludicrous inclusion of QR codes to bolster response. This is just so counter intuitive to be almost laughable. Use an antiquated, inferior yet ubiquitous technology in order to bolster the numbers from a vastly superior but under-utilized technology that sadly just isn’t ready for prime time.

    What these early “pioneers” are doing is potentially very damaging. With 9 out of 10 responses coming from QR codes, we are augmenting the old tech, admitting that NFC isn’t ready…and making the case for the bad I-WORD much easier for all to consider and articulate.

    Until Apple joins the discussion with a technology that offers the kind of usage we are counting on for NFC (forget all the talk about mobile wallets for now folks)- namely, the sharing of content between consumer and brand- we are doing more damage than good.

    Mr Sabella- if Bluebite is willing to prove me wrong by disclosing the results from jansport- I’ll gladly admit the error of my ways. My guess is BUELLER BUELLER BUELLER upon suggestion. Yeah Yeah…clients don’t like sharing their success stories. Nor do they like sharing their failures. My gut tells me- Jansport was a nice little campaign with 10x more QR scans than NFC actions.

    If I’m wrong…prove it!

    If I’m right- I’m hoping you’ll help end the talk that Apple is somehow an unneeded player in all this. Nothing could be further from the truth or more damaging to the collective cause.


  2. @Brian,I would point out that there are very few actual, meaningful analytics released for QR campaigns, yet they continue to be used, and an industry has evolved (Running calculations based on the limited numbers some campaigns provided; and I find there is less than 1/2 of 1% scan rate based on total exposures for “successful” QR campaigns).

    I believe there have been some side-by-side tests between QR and NFC in Australia, and I recollect the KRAFT FOOD test late last year in California where NFC had a 12x higher engagement rate than QR:

    Those are good numbers. Incomplete. But, they tell a good story (unless you’re in the QR business).

    While I absolutely concur that it would be great if Apple includes NFC in their next device, regardless, the mobile marketing Industry have already abandoned apx. 45% of the population (those without smartphones; who, let’s face it, don’t engage with SMS marketing either). Therefore, sub-dividing and serving one-half of the market is not without precedent.

    Looking back in time, three years ago, how many Brands introduced iPhone apps (but, not Android, Windows or RIM)? That was when the iPhone was less than 20% of the total mobile market. Historically, ubiquity is not a requirement for mobile marketing.

    The early days of the iPhone App market were remarkably absurd when you considered the dollars spent to reach a minority market share.

    Likewise, these early NFC campaigns will probably look absurd as well. But, if the engagement rates exceed (by a factor of “x”) alternative technologies, then NFC will establish itself as being viable to incorporate into marketing campaigns.

  3. What is the NFC Forum? The NFC Forum is a not-for-profit industry organization whose mission is to advance the use of Near Field Communication technology by developing specifications, ensuring interoperability among devices and services, and educating the market about NFC technology. More than 160 companies, many leaders in their markets, have teamed up to achieve this goal. See for more information.

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  5. Here’s another example: – a solution for guard patrol monitoring which uses NFC tags and android smartphones. Basically, every guard posesses a smartphone and uses it to scan NFC tags along a predetermined route. There are notifications (sound & vibrate) if he didn’t visit a checkpoint and his supervisor will receive an email alert. Simple and easy, no more guards sleeping during the program.

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