Is Near Field Communication the Payment System of the Future?

Posted on Feb 11 2011 - 5:16pm by Richard Sharp

One hugely interesting new development which looks like changing our spending habits in the future is the Near Field Communication (NFC) which appears to be something we can expect to see on a lot of mobile phones in the years to come. With a wave of the phone, bills can be paid without your wallet even leaving your pocket. NFC is already included on the Android Gingerbread OS and is rumoured to be coming to the iPhone in the near future.

The future

Vending Machines in Tokyo now use NFC

Do you remember 10 or 20 years ago when you paid for most things with real, hard cash? Credit cards have been around for a long time – since the 1950’s – but it is only really in the last couple of decades that we have seen significant moves towards a truly cashless society, and NFC looks like going a long way towards moving that idea one step further forward.

The European Central Bank say that over €1.6 trillion was spent on plastic cards in Europe during 2008, and the amount of plastic spending has been increasingly steadily over the last few years. It is commonly believed that by 2015 two thirds of our purchases will be made on plastic cards if trends continue.

Apart from credit cards, many of us use virtual accounts to pay for a lot of our shopping online, and it is clear that real, physical notes and coins are becoming less and less essential in our everyday lives, but would the advent of NFC as a viable payment method really change our lives that much?


Eric Schmidt Showcasing NFC on the Nexus S

For the consumer, the hassle free aspect of paying digitally is undoubtedly attractive, and a phone instead of a credit card has a few different advantages; not having to worry about taking your cards or deciding which one to use, no worries about expiry dates or damaged cards and the ability to keep a better track of your spending. The list is endless.

From the point of view of the retailers, handling money actually costs them money, over 1% of the retail price according to some estimates, so they are quite happy to see people pay electronically.   


 The Future Shop near Dusseldorf in Germany is a place where new technology and shopping meet on an experimental basis and experiences like the fingerprint scan payment scheme which came unstuck because of customers’ security concerns show that there is still a long way to go before everyone will be convinced of the benefits of ditching the cash. Customers of the German Future store have also found that scanning bar codes with a mobile phone is a time consuming and rather fiddly task. Although neither of these technologies is strictly NFC it goes to show that consumers are wary of change.

 It certainly seems as though NFC and mobile phone payments could be the next big thing, but most of us will look for reassurances about ease of use and protection of private data before this can be regarded as a serious payment method which we would be happy using every day. 

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