When Apple announced last year that they were opening up NFC technology in their new iPhones, I had one of those, “this is going to be big” moments. Mobile tech is finally catching up and allowing us to bring app-like experiences to the mobile web, so giving our customers the way to access these experiences with just a quick “tap” of their smartphones is a serious game-changer. That’s why I was so excited to sit down with NXP’s NFC Evangelist, Tim Daly. His career put him on the cutting edge of NFC technology back in the early 2000’s, so he’s got over a decade’s worth of NFC expertise to share for brands who are just now catching on to this tech. Here’s a bit of our conversation:
Lumavate’s VP of Marketing, Stephanie Cox: So tell me a little bit about how you got started in your career with NFC.
NXP’s NFC Evangelist, Tim Daly: I started to read a lot about RFID technologies in 2009, specifically a new standard called Near Field Communications–NFC. And at the time, NFC had just become the global standard for secure, short range digital connections between a reader and a passive, small, low cost sensor tag. And in this particular case, I saw that the smartphone as the reader held the most potential, because Nokia at the time was talking about putting NFC readers in their phones. So I saw an opportunity to connect the physical world to the digital world through our smartphones using this new NFC technology. That’s how I got started.
SC: Well it’s so interesting that you mention RFID, because I think a lot of people get NFC confused with Bluetooth and RFID technologies.
TD: NFC is its very close cousin, but it’s a much shorter range technology. It’s approximately five to ten centimeters’ distance read range, depending upon the size of the antenna and the type of reader. And it’s become the global standard for a secure communication between a device–i.e. a smartphone–and a small plastic tag. Plus, it’s also the global communications standard for contactless payments. So think: Apple Pay, Google Pay, Android Pay…they all operate on the Near Field Communication standard. It’s short range, highly secure, and a highly intentional technology. You’re not going to be walking around a mall and your phone is going to be buzzing and beeping because you’re walking by NFC tags; You literally have to take your phone out, and touch to that thing have a connection made. So those are the I think those are the two big differences.
SC: So when you think about the future of NFC and what opportunities brands have, what do you want to see them take advantage of?
TD: What I’m worried about is that brands are going to view NFC solely as a marketing channel for their benefit. And if that’s the case then rest assured, NFC will not go the way it should go. However, if you offer true, unique value to each person for the action of taking their phone out and touching it to your products and engaging, then you’ve got something interesting. And, you know, value is relative to each person in that moment in time and what you’re doing. So if I’m in a supermarket and I’m hell bent on buying 10 boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and you’re going to offer me 2-for-1 right then and there because I’ve touched my my phone to your package, then that’s of value to me at that moment in time. If I’m buying a Nike jersey and I’m going to a game and I touch my phone and I get a VIP ticket upgrade, that’s really cool and gives me value. But it can’t be the generic push messaging that’s so prevalent in marketing and advertising. It’s got to be customized, contextual, personalized messaging.