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The Success of NFC

An interesting article recently appeared on the FESPA web site that should be of interest to all printers of POS material.

The Success of NFC
By  The Print Innovator

One of the top technologies tipped for success in 2013 is NFC. The Print Innovator wants to show you why.

'Near Field Communication’. This short range wireless technology, which works in a very similar way to RFID, is on the cusp of going stratospheric – if you believe the experts – thanks largely to the growth of NFC-enabled mobile phones.
 In 2011 there were around 45 million NFC-enabled phones in circulation globally and it was anticipated that growth would punch through the 100 million mark at some point last year, with more than 50% of all smartphones projected to be NFC-enabled by 2015.
 Why is any of this of interest to the printing industry you may ask? Because NFC tags are a relatively cheap way of making a piece of print interactive. The tags are essentially a link to data – if you scan a tag on an NFC-enabled handset it will instantly connect you to a YouTube video or a website. So by fitting a tag to a piece of print you can get consumers to engage with it.
What is and how does NFC work? Well Which? explains in the following video
For example, when used on a piece of point of sale customers could be invited to scan the tag to receive a money off coupon, view a brand’s latest advertising campaign or even enter a competition. On smart bus shelter posters you could invite consumers to scan the tag to watch the trailer of the latest movie or music release. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The tags are already being placed into business cards, beer mats and even in magazine advertising with packaging next on the horizon.       
The most direct equivalent to NFC tags is the ubiquitous QR codes, which hold a major advantage over the tags in that they’re free to print, whereas tags are quite expensive to manufacture. However, with NFC tags you don’t have to download a special app to read them, you don’t have to line the tag up with your phone’s camera (you simply hold the phone near the tag) and crucially – unlike QR codes – they work in the dark.
The cost of NFC tags is already starting to reduce as increasing numbers of people use them, and although they’re unlikely to ever drop to as low as a few pennies, if volumes continue to grow in the future anything is possible. So with this in mind, what would it take to adopt this soon-to-be-successful technology? Some possible questions you could ask yourself are:
Is NFC cost-effective for print campaigners?
Buying NFC chips in bulk can make them incredibly cheap, and they can be ruggedized to handle outdoor environments for outdoor print campaigns. The cost can jump when you have to program, lock and test the NFC chips. Unlike a QR code where you just print it and know where the link will go, each NFC chip will need to have its action programmed. At this time there aren't really great solutions for bulk encoding chips, which can make it difficult to do large scale NFC/Print Campaigns.
Whats the difference between QR codes and NFC?
To explain the key differences, here is Matthias Gialica, CEO, ShareSquare.
How hard is it (interms of availability, programming and cost) to incorporate NFC into a mobile app?
The APIs on most mobile devices, such as Nokia, Google and Samsung are relative easy to program for which makes It quite easy to access the hardware implemented in current devices.  There are however, variations in the coding, transfer rates and protocols.  There may also be data collision issues at the highest data transfer rates since send and receive will take place at the same time and will need to be taken into consideration with all applications.
I would suggest to any printer to keep in mind that there is much more to NFC then payments and this may set you on a path to new ideas.

With acknowledgements to FESPA and the Print Innovator for this article.