NFC Phones
With NFC, phones may replace keys

The New York Times published a story over the weekend about how smartphones may soon replace house and car keys. People are using phones to lock and unlock their homes and to start up their automobiles and turn on the air conditioning so the car will be comfortable when they’re ready to ride.

The story notes, however, that the system currently has drawbacks, including the need to push buttons to establish a connection. NFC (near-field communications) may soon eliminate that shortcoming. NFC will allow phones to make a connection and unlock a door simply by waving the phone near a reader.

"NFC is now in only a handful of phones," the story notes, but manufacturers should ship around 550 million N.F.C. phones in 2015, according to IHS iSuppli, a technology consulting firm.”

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Joint NFC venture to launch in Austin, Salt Lake City

Austin has joined Salt Lake City as initial launch markets for a venture promoting mass acceptance of NFC (Near-Field Communication) payments.

ISIS, a joint venture of AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, wants to use the cities to spread awareness of NFC technology, which allows shoppers to make purchases by waving their smart phones near special readers at retail outlets.

According to TG Daily, the cities will (starting in early 2012) provide merchants with special credit card terminals that can accept payments both from traditional credit cards and from NFC phones.

Some phones on the market already are equipped with NFC technology and more phones are on the way. TG Daily called it possibly “the biggest advancement in point-of-sale payments since the introduction of credit cards.”

Forces fight behind-the-scenes over NFC profits

The pieces are being put in place for the development of a new consumer payment system that replaces smartphones for credit cards.  Millions of cellphones are being manufactured with the NFC chip built in. Major retailers nationwide are investing in equipment to read the new NFC (near-field communications) handsets.

But behind the scenes, banks, credit card companies, phone carriers, technology companies and payment networks such as Paypal are fighting for control. Or, more precisely, they’re battling over their share of the profits from this new payment system.

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iPhones to get NFC technology?

NFC technology soon may be coming to an iPhone near you. At least, that’s what the New York Times is reporting.

It isn’t surprising news. NFC (near-field communications), which allows consumers to make payments by waving their smartphone near an NFC reader, is poised to take off with many companies investing in over-the-air technology to take advantage of NFC.

Google is exploring NFC payment technology for its Android phones and Nokia has said it plans to add NFC to all of its phones in 2011.

With the retail technology starting to be put in place, mass availability of NFC handsets is what’s needed for NFC payments to take off.

In a post this afternoon on the Times’ technology blog, Nick Bilton reports that a coming iteration of the iPhone will have a Qualcomm chip that includes near-field communication.

The Times attributes the information to two unnamed sources said to have knowledge of the coming development. But NFC may not be included on the next iteration of the wildly popular smartphone from Apple.

If the iPhone does adopt the technology it is sure to be a major boon for the emerging technology - one more step toward the mass acceptance that technology experts already say is certain.

A recent Forrester Research report forecast that 12.5 million locations around the world will accept contactless payments by the end of 2013 and that one in six mobile phone users will have NFC handsets by 2014.

Samsung launching new NFC phone in Korea

Samsung is launching the a new NFC handset in South Korea - the SHW-A170K, which reportedly will be the first widely available near-field communications phone in that part of the world.

With the phone, people will be able to make cashless purchases, buy bus and subway tickets and download information from smart tags simply by waving their phone near a sensor. You also can exchange information quickly with someone else who has an NFC phone.

The phone also has wi-fi connectivity, a 3-megapixel camera, DMB support and a 3.2-inch touchscreen display.

The phone comes on the heels of the new Samsung Google Nexus S smartphone, which went on sale in December. The Nexus S, which uses Google’s new Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) operating system, brings NFC technology to the mainstream U.S. phone market.

Analysts forecast great growth for NFC handsets in the coming years. Juniper Research expects NFC to be a $110 billion business by 2014, with one in six mobile phone users owning NFC handsets.