There has been a flurry of articles on Near Field Communications (NFC) about how soon we'll all be using our phones to pay for a cup of coffee.
It's an interesting concept, and likely will come true, but I have to ask: "What's in it for me?"
Remember when contactless credit cards first arrived? MasterCard created PayPass and launched a series of TV commercials about how it would speed up payment to make our lives better. I was intrigued. But when I finally had a chance to pay for a cup of coffee by tapping my card instead of swiping the mag stripe, I was a bit disappointed. I'm not sure how much time I saved, but at most it was a second or two, and other than that it was the same experience. Perhaps it made a difference to the companies involved in processing credit card payments, but it made no difference to me.
Fast forward to today with all excitement about paying for a cup of coffee with our phone. It's hard not to be a little jaded and ask what's different this time. Fact is there are differences, such as e-coupons, more convenient and tighter integration to loyalty programs, etc. But a major driving force for NFC turns out to be coming from the cellular carriers and handset manufacturers who see a way to participate in the payment process and capture a portion of profits that are currently going to the credit card ecosystem. I understand their desires, but again have to ask, "What's in it for me?"
So if payment isn't the killer app for NFC, then what is? Perhaps it depends on the context...
When I'm at the store shopping for a new printer, the ability to tap my phone on a tag next to the demo unit to take me to a special webpage where I can learn more is appealing. Or walking by a movie poster at the mall and tapping a tag to learn when and where it's showing and then quickly buy tickets so I won't have to wait in line at the theater is appealing. Or receiving a text before I check into my hotel so that I can go straight to my room, access it using my phone, and bypass the front desk check in process is appealing. Or having my company load my door opening credential onto my phone so that my "badge" is always with me is appealing.
Will any of these turn out to be the killer app for NFC? Do you think there will even be a killer app? Let us know how you would like to use NFC.