I’ve never been particularly bullish on NFC as a disruptive technology, whether in the travel sector or not. It’s hard to get excited about something being disruptive when the technology has been around almost two decades.
Mobile wallets still have potential, but I think it will still be 3-5 years until we start to see them take off. And by then I don’t have much confidence that NFC will be the enabling technology behind the mobile wallet’s success. It’s even gotten to the point that NFC supporters are hyping crazy small corner cases to promote NFC. (see here and here; hard to believe this stuff was in GigaOM. Felt more like Mashable ‘reporting’).
So I wanted to bring everyone’s attention (at least those who read me, so perhaps much less than ‘everyone’) to the new Bluetooth LE standard. I was reading this section in a must read post by Steve Cheney and felt it was worth sharing as this could be the final nail in NFC’s coffin:
NFC is dead—that’s not the interesting part though, it’s how Apple was able to replicate NFC functionality with Bluetooth 4.0 and WiFi (they’re also using GPS like Bump did for authentication) and how they standardized all of this into iBeacon in iOS7. While supporting it all backward compatibly to iPhone 4S. A two year old phone upgraded with iOS7 will just work… Bluetooth has arrived – it’s been around forever, but up to now it’s been crappy. Bluetooth LE (also called Bluetooth Smart) changes everything. Connections, pairing, device management etc will finally work 100% of the time, and Bluetooth will be a completely bulletproof, consumer ready, industry leading technology. There will truly be a radio in everything around us and it’s going to enable incredible experiences in mobile. Apple’s iWatch will work so well with your iPhone out of the gate when it’s launched you will be blown away.
Now there are still advantages to NFC regarding security and in particular the carrier’s ability to enable access to the secure element in the SIM to get a piece of the action, but reading comments like that above only reinforce that NFC may not be the mechanism to enable all the great ideas being bandied about to leverage the now nearly ubiquitous smartphone. Or perhaps next month Apple includes NFC in the upcoming iPhone5S and I look like a doofus. We shall see, but so far I’ve been more right than wrong on this one for the past decade.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments.