You are not alone if you haven’t heard of Near Field Communications (NFC) technology or never realized that you’ve probably already used one form of it whether through a digital wallet, FastTrak pass to zip through a toll bridge, or paid for gas with an easy swipe. NFC uses RFID or a short length wireless radio frequency to send snippets of data to a receiver. Once touted by mobile device makers as the breakthrough technology for the mobile wallet system, it is now being leveraged by digital marketers to push content in very powerful and convenient ways.
Here’s how it works: your mobile device contains an NFC chip that sends a wireless signal to a “tag” that has built in circuitry embedded with information, a website link for example. The tag is passive, meaning it doesn’t need power or be “on.” It is activated by your device’s identifiable wireless signal. Not only that, but it can be encased so that it is completely weather proof. Don’t fret, you can’t inadvertently activate a NFC tag that sends a Tweet to all your friends that you “checked-in” at Moe’s Tavern in the middle of the day. The user has to open the NFC app and be within 20 cm range. Some marketers have sold it as a “swipe” or a “pass.” But a steady consensus in the marketing industry is calling it a “tap.”
Still in its early-adopter phase, NFC technology has been embraced by Google, Nokia, RIM, and rumors say that Apple will introduce the technology with the next version of the iPhone. Already, the latest Blackberry Bold and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphones have NFC built in for consumers to use today. But it is not mainstream because the digital infrastructure is not built yet. Most businesses haven’t embraced or don’t even know how to use NFC technology for marketing purposes. And not enough consumers have devices with NFC built in, even though that will change very fast by 2015, when it is estimated that 500 million devices will contain the technology. But some savvy companies, with the help of new NFC digital marketing firms (yes, they’ve popped up already) are defining for the rest of us, how to take advantage of this technology.
For example, Google offers a Google Places window sticker for business to have their customers “check-in,” read reviews, and perhaps get coupons. These NFC tags can be embedded on movie posters to provide users a movie trailer or on bus shelter ads to provide free music exclusively for users of the Samsung Galaxy SIII. In fact, Samsung plans on rolling out 50 NFC kiosks and 40,000 “smart” posters all over New York to coincide with the launch of the new Galaxy S III. NFC will also be built into business cards so that a simple tap by a phone will automatically call the recipient. T-shirts, cars, even money are in the horizon for NFC technology treatment.
Recently, Samsung announced that consumers will be able to buy NFC tags, called TecTiles, that are programmable. For instance, you can have a tag mounted near the front door of your house programmed to send you a text when your latchkey kids get home from school. As a small businesses owner, you can have the tags programmed to share your location with your customer’s network on Facebook with a scripted post (“I’m at Jennifer’s Flowers and I just got a free bouquet for being a loyal customer!”). The possibilities are endless.
Can you think of creative ways that NFC technology can be used for marketing campaigns?