Advertisers and marketers may not have heard of near field communications (NFC) technology, but the newest version of the Android phone, codename Gingerbread, supports the chips. Google CEO Eric Schmidt talked about it Monday at the Web 2.0 Summit.
As a tech geek writing about NFC for years, I know how the technology will open the door to innovative campaigns on mobile devices that many advertisers and marketers night not thought possible.
NFC provides more than a tap-and-go technology allowing consumers to pay for items through mobile commerce like many media reports suggest. For technology geeks developing applications for Android devices, NFC is a short-range, high-frequency wireless communications technology enabling the exchange of data between two devices. The technology is an extension of radio frequency identification (RFID) that allows two devices to transmit information between them without contact.
For advertisers, the more exciting applications focus on sending coupons, promotions and advertisements for products and services to phones. In some cases, the marketing campaign centers on the person's location determined by the GPS transmitter in the smartphone, according to Mark Roberti, founder and editor of RFID Journal.
"Imagine a commuter gets off a bus and receives a discount coupon for a store across the street from the bus stop, and the consumer can redeem the coupon instantly at a store using the phone that delivered it," Roberti says. "Stores could develop kiosks and other interactive devices that communicate with smart phones via NFC."
I agree with Roberti when he says developers now have an option to create apps for managing loyalty card points, but instead of being just based on purchases, the marketing campaign might include other valuable activities such as tweeting on Twitter about a company's new product.
Gingerbread will push NFC into commercial use as developers design applications around the technology. But Google isn't the first to integrate NFC into smartphones. Earlier this year, companies began releasing open-source middleware for phones. Shortly after, Nokia EVP for Markets Anssi Vanjoki announced all new smartphones delivered by the company beginning in 2011 will come with NFC technology.
Companies making NFC chips such as the Philips Semiconductors' spinoff NXP Semiconductor waited years for commercial deployment. In the early days I tried a cashless payment app from NXP, where the mobile phone becomes the purchase mechanism to buy a bottle of water from a vending machine.
In 2008, NXP began seeing more NFC applications for mobile phones, commerce, and the starts of chips designed into cameras and other consumer devices. That year 230 San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) riders began a four month trial allowing consumers to use specially equipped mobile phones to pay for transit tickets and download information from smart ads. For the test, Jack in the Box loaded $20 in coupons on each phone giving consumers a chance to pay for food with the cashless systems. BART also loaded $48 worth of ride tickets.
Marketers and advertisers are the creative bunch. Think of the possibilities. Have anything in mind?