If you’ve heard of Near Field Communication, chances are it’s in the context of paying for items using your smartphone. As consumers and retailers have dragged their heels in implementing contact-less payment systems, small businesses are turning toward new ways of using radio-frequency identification to automate daily activities.
This summer, visitors to Disney parks will get a first-hand look at the technology, as guests are outfitted with wristbands that include NFC chips. These MyMagic+ bands will, among other things, be used to pay for concessions and act as FastPasses, which provide speedy access to rides. Since many amusement park visitors would prefer not to carry a wallet full of credit cards around, these wristbands will provide a welcome convenience to park guests.
Small businesses can learn from Disney’s use of NFC. Tags that include NFC chips are already available for Samsung (Samsung TecTiles) and Android (TagsForDroid) devices. Here are a few ways small businesses are putting NFC to use in daily operations.
- Contact-less payments. While the technology is still new, it’s clearly on its way. Recently, iKaaz announced its cost-effective “tap and pay” reader for mobile POS systems. While putting an iKaaz system in place won’t necessarily have customers waiting in line, NFC-enabled device in hand, just yet, many are saying this sort of payment will eventually replace payment systems like Square. Since iKaaz turns a mobile device into a checkout register, it’s ideal for small-business owners interested in accepting credit card payments without investing in a full-blown system.
- Share contacts. Samsung users can import contact information from business cards containing TecTiles. By placing TecTiles on all business cards, small businesses can easily get their own contact information into associates’ phones.
- Share WiFi settings. Business owners who allow customers or visitors to share WiFi access can use NFC chips to easily allow those guests on a WiFi network.
- Track time. Android smartphone owners can use NFC with an app called Timesheet, which helps them log time spent on tasks by setting a smartphone on top of a tag.
- Encourage check-ins. Customer check-ins can increase exposure for your small business, as customers’ social media friends see the name of your business on newsfeeds. TagStand NFC Writer sets it up so that customers can easily check into Foursquare using tags. To encourage easy check-in for your NFC-enabled customers, place NFC tags near the entrance to your establishment, and direct customers to them using signage.
With Apple as one of the last remaining holdouts on the technology, NFC is far from wide implementation in the market. Today, the biggest uses for the technology appear to be related to simplifying people’s lives.
This year’s CES was rife with products that displayed NFC, including speakers that use it to pair with stereo systems, NFC-enabled remote control of appliances like washers, and easy transferring of media across devices.
Contact-less payment aside, NFC is exciting technology that is likely to continue to revolutionize the way small businesses conduct day-to-day activities, and interact with others in their industry. As more mobile devices and appliances are programmed to interact with NFC, the possibilities for applications of NFC are endless.