14 Ways NFC Will Replace Your Wallet With Your Phone

We're seeing more and more NFC-enabled devices - but it's hard to get excited by anything that goes by three dull letters (notable exceptions: BFF, STD, UFO). NFC, however, is (potentially) quite awesome. Here's how we hope it'll shine.

First, the basics. NFC stands for Near Field Communication. Which still doesn't tell us much. Basically, it's a way for devices to transmit and receive very small bits of information, wirelessly, at very close ranges. How close? Centimetres close. So unlike beaming video from your laptop to your TV over Wi-Fi, or syncing phone contacts over Bluetooth, NFC is suited for simpler, daintier tasks. But that doesn't mean they can't be cool as hell. Here's a rundown of how we hope to see NFC seeping into our lives in the not too distant future:

1. Mobile Payment

This one's a gimme. Mostly, because it already exists - credit card companies like Visa are already pushing their contactless methods, and companies like Google and Apple have shown interest in turning our phones into debit cards. It might even show up in the next iPhone. What's it mean? No real wallet. Take out your phone, swipe it by the register, be on your way.

2. Goodbye Passport

This one, not so much a gimme - namely for security reasons. We can't imagine the US State Department relinquishing control of their most cherished proof of existence. But, as with your wallet, it'd be nice to consolidate the number of things you have to pack on a trip. Imagine swiping your phone at customs instead of digging around for your crinkled passport? New passports already have radio chips inside, anyway. Just hope suicide bombers don't start jailbreaking.

3. Keys

Apartment keys. Car keys. Hotel keys. Safe keys. Locker keys. Keys to your girlfriend's place. We all have way too many keys. So what if you could swipe your way indoors with only one object? Wireless door fobs are increasingly popular anyway - this one seems likely.

4. Contact Exchange

Hey! What's your number! What? I can't hear you! Two oh two, three... WHAT? Sorry, it's really loud in here. Can you just - oh forget it. And there goes the love of your life. Instead, you could have enabled a contact exchange mode and swapped digits with NFC - no need to keep battery-munching Bluetooth or Wi-Fi turned on.

5. Comparison Shopping

Imagine a little radio chip in everything on the shelf. Toys. Books. DVDs. Swipe it with your phone and see if you should be shopping elsewhere for a better price. Remember - RFID tags are tiny - you can stick 'em anywhere. Comparison shopping apps exist already, but barcode scanning is about as fun as paying too much.

6. Instant Restaurant Reviews

Google is already pushing this one, with their RIFD-enabled Places stickers emblazoned upon the windows of some establishments, but think if this were universal? Does that taco place look dubious? Can a window poster and see what everyone on Yelp, MenuPages and the rest of the discerning foodienet has to say.

7. Perfect Foursquare Check-Ins

Cheating on Foursquare ranks about as low in the grand scheme of life problems as losing your iPhone cable, but having a node of some sort that you could swipe-to-check-in would both speed up the process, and guarantee its accuracy. No more disputed mayorships!

8. Easy Tickets

Buy your ticket online. Swipe your phone to enter the theatre. This will certainly put people out of jobs, but, shit man — I need to rush in to make sure I don't miss the previews! Surely you'll understand. The same process could go for any kind of ticket — aeroplane included. Swiping boarding passes? Yes please. Another way to bury obnoxious barcode scanning, too.

9. Advertising

This ain't exactly a noble one, but shopping mavens would undoubtedly like the ability to swipe their phones over a poster or billboard, and be directed to a website where they can buy or get more info. Mag ads wouldn't work, unfortunately - even with a meagre 4cm range, an NFC device would scan through every page (and ad) at once.

10. Dead Simple Bibliographies

That works-cited page. THE WORST. Or, if your book is tagged with a tiny radio chip in its spine, swipe your phone over it to generate a perfectly formatted bibliography (sort of like existing tech does less gracefully). Or be directed to a Wikipedia page on the novel's author. Or relay yourself to Amazon to browse the rest of their oeuvre.

11. Educated Grocery Shopping

How much fat does this frozen mac and cheese have? Swipe. I've got nutmeg, time to cross it off my shopping list app. Swipe. Food is complicated, as is shopping healthily - breaking down edible info without having to look at every piece of packaging would be a godsend and lend itself to healthier checkout aisles. Tagged food is smart food.

12. Medicine Demystified

Do I have a refill on this prescription? Swipe the (tagged) pill bottle, and let your phone communicate with a remote pharmacy database. What dangerous interactions do I have to keep in mind? Swipe again! Safe and easy.

13. Pet Tags

Whose adorable lost puppy is this? Well, I guess we'll just have to keep him, since we don't know where he's from. Oh, wait! His collar has an RFID tag in it, and my phone can pull up full information on his vet records and contact info on his owners. Aw, shucks.

14. Less Painful Hospitals

What if that bracelet had more than just your name and some numbers on it? What if it contained your entire medical history, so that your doctor could pull up your file on his phone, wirelessly? Faster treatment, smarter doctors, safer patients.

But what else? We'll have to see. It's a subtle, flexible technology. It'll replace our credit cards, sure - but we hope it'll move beyond commerce, as clever imaginations and good design grab ahold of it and stick it, well - everywhere. Where can you imagine NFC tech making your life a tiny bit better? Or, conversely, does the idea of a radio-tagged reality spook you a bit?



    I would like all that to happen and more but I think it would be years before we see most or any of this aside from the pay stuff.

    Honestly, I don't see a half of these becoming a reality, and I only see a fraction of them becoming sucessful. The main issue is security. NFC (to my knowledge so far) has no form of authentification. As it is, loosing your phone is a nightmare - imagine how much exponentially worse that would be if you lost your phone AND wallet at the same time. Hell, theres not even a PIN to protect your money will you frantically ring the bank to get your cards stopped.

    Then to suggest your phone and keys could be combined for access to your home? At least if I loose my keys as it is, I have the comfort that whoever finds them will at least have no idea where I live. It shouldn't be too hard for someone to figure out your address from your phone however.

    Similar schemes have been tried before. Newcastle took part in a smartcard trial - which was supposed to replace cash, medicare etc etc all on one card, and failed dismally.

    While I do think NFC might have some practical uses (Pets have long used similar technologies for microchipping for example), I think most of the suggestions in this article are akin to some of the old "Life in the year 2000" illustrations you see from the 1960s.

      Beep Beep Boop. ID: 94242QSw

      Last edited 16/08/14 8:40 pm

        Actually no I don't. But then I've never lost a phone in my life, and I don't feel I have any information which is THAT sensitive, that it would be a problem if I do loose my phone.

      okay sam cook.

      when was the last time you where in a big city.

      look up skimming. it's so bad the government won't even talk about it.

      at least when you lose your wallet you can cancel cards/same with nfc.

      skimmers keep your info for a month. then party on pay paid taxing 1000's of accounts over night.

      it will be insured by the FDIC which is your protection. get real thanks for the sweet nothings.

      the government will be able to track signals and catch these fools. reverse out of your paraniod thinking.

      the brain is connected to the - ear phones - the ear phones are connected to the iphone - the iphone is connected to the internet - the internet is connected to the google - the google is connected to the government.

      you're not smart because to read about smart stuff.

      I love you mom.

    Quick question:

    Whats to stop some tech savvy thief from having a NFC payment "wand" and walking down a crowded street silently tapping every handbag he walks past, collecting $5 a pop from each person, wirelessly and silently?

      Good question. I want to know this as well. There must be some sort of built in "approve" option on the phone like you do with bluetooth pairing.

    I'm surprised you don't go for the most simple.

    Integrate tag on tag off systems for buses and trains. As opposed to having a dedicated card for it.

    Making my wallet thinner is a good thing.

    Additionally as opposed to having a million membership cards on a wallet turn them into RFID data.

    Ohhh.. Could u imagine devices like TV's and DVD players have these RFID tags where you can just swipe your universal remote over it and it'll automatically set it up. Also, if you could swipe your DVD player, or xbox remote over your TV, your TV will automatically configure itself for that device, and visa versa. Frakin' awesome :D.

    Could be useful to get rid of those annoying biometric finger print scanners on your laptop that don't work half the time.. just stick your phone next to the laptop and you dont have anyone peeping your passwords or forging your fingerprint scanner (my friend and i played around with our laptop biometrics and we managed to get into each others laptop!)

    As for waving your phone over everything, thatll will take some getting used too.. why not instead, "oh look the Eftpos machine picks up the NFC Chip in my pocket, select, put in pin, ok, bye!!" you dont even have to swipe your phone!

    I think there will be better, safer option further down the track.

    Why don't they just skip this step and implant then in our wrists?

    bla bla bla conspiracy something blah blah

    I'll be one of the first to stick my hands up for a NFC device built in to my hand, it's 2011, come on I shouldn't even have to hold my phone anymore.

      I'll do it if you do it first mate :)
      There'll be one for NFC chips soon enough once they figure out how to power them.

      I'd use NFC to replace my wallet and keys. Can't see myself using it with all the other listed stuff though.

    NFC to scan the spine of a book for a bibliography? Sure it's possible but why is there a book in the picture in an era of NFC? Seems a bit like using your flying legs to walk.

    Three letter words not exciting? Obviously never tried sex! As for NFF, iPhone barcode apps can deliver the same sort of results without the need for technology embedded every product. Simply photograph a 2d or 3d barcode with the phone's camera and let the magic happen. Right now.

    The risk of losing your phone, and by extension your identity, is just too much to ignore. We'll have to wait for some more security and authentication functionality to be baked in before it goes mainstream. Perhaps a combination of a fingerprint reader + NFC...waiting and watching.

    "Just hope suicide bombers don’t start jailbreaking."

    You know the guys who committed 9/11 were in the US legally, right?

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