Engagement Today and Tomorrow: The Various Use Cases of NFC in the IoT World

NFC can be used in conjunction with other cutting-edge technologies to create dynamic, engaging experiences for customers and provide fast and secure authentication measures for companies.

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Illustration: © IoT For All

When a person interacts with connected devices and interactive technology, they tend to have a few basic expectations: it should be fast, be safe and provide a valuable experience. Meeting these expectations benefits both sides of the equation — the user and the company providing the technology — and this is especially true as people and organizations look to connect more technologies for convenience and functionality. As this goal is being achieved, however, it’s critically important that the devices created are both cyber-secure and user-friendly.

Near field communication (NFC), a technology that allows for the transfer of information by bringing two equipped devices in close range of each other, checks these boxes. Whether it’s used for an easier checkout for a shopper, a secure and simple entry for an authorized employee or even creating a unique consumer interaction in a grocery store, NFC provides a rich technological avenue for connecting with users.

A Sense of Security

According to NXP Semiconductors, one of the original developers of NFC technology along with Sony back in 1992, the technology is very secure. “The security of NFC at the highest levels is essentially unbeatable,” said Tim Daly, NFC Evangelist, Americas, NXP Semiconductors. “It’s as secure as anything out there.”

A safe and reliable technology is paramount for both users and companies; knowing the underlying security of the communication path can offer reassurance that the solution is valid and genuine. That trust is important for every NFC application, from promotional offers on consumer goods to secure keycard access utilizing NFC technology. Daly also pointed out that NFC provides an additional layer of security when interacting with the endpoint entryways to an IoT network. 

Many Uses in the Connected World

There’s a multitude of ways that NFC can be applied, from the direct-to-consumer space to intracompany practices. Companies that deal with consumer goods can harness NFC for better customer engagement. For instance, by including NFC tags with instant redeemable coupons (IRCs) on grocery items, shoppers can bring up recipes that use the product on their smart devices before purchase. After purchase, once a tamper loop is broken, an NFC tag enables a new experience. In this way, NFC technology allows a company to engage with its customers before and after a purchase.

NFC technology can also be used for high-end consumer goods, like those in the luxury spirits and wine industry. When a consumer touches their mobile device to an NFC tag on the bottle closure or packaging, it can provide a unique and valuable mobile experience. These interactions can offer new membership or discount opportunities, offer more in-depth product information, verify that the expensive beverage purchased is in fact what’s in the bottle and assure customers that products haven’t been tampered with or compromised. These tags can also detect issues in the supply chain, such as illegitimate retailers or production that brings to market unauthorized goods that should not represent the brand. 

Other than the consumer space, there are many applications for employee management and identity verification. Every business needs identity management and access control, whether to verify that the people onsite are indeed the right employees or contractors, or to track access points to more secure, restricted areas of a facility. NFC is a great option for various requirements, including credentialing, secure access and two-factor authentication. 

The Benefits

On the consumer side, the benefits of NFC are a two-way street. When it comes to a promotional offer emanating from an NFC tag on a product, this benefits the company by compelling a purchase and benefits the consumer by providing unique offers or experiences. In applications that utilize NFC for anti-tampering and product verification, the consumer can feel more confident in their purchase and the product they use, knowing that it’s exactly the one the brand has developed an identity around. 

For security, NFC creates a simple and nearly frictionless experience for identity verification and access. The simple exchange of tapping an authenticated mobile device or ID card to a reader is fast, user-friendly and safe. By utilizing a secure technology like NFC for access control and identity management, organizations can also protect an entry point to the IoT ecosystem attached to that device.

How NFC Should Be Applied

NFC is an interesting technology because the readers are prevalent in most smartphones; it’s the applications that are now expanding. However, NFC is only as valuable as the way it is being applied. According to Daly, there are three guidelines for creating a high-value add with NFC:

  • Make sure it’s a valuable exchange. If the NFC tag in a product brings a user to a digital resource, ensure that resource has value for the consumer as well as for the company.
  • Make it easy and intuitive. Whether NFC is used for consumer goods or secure access, people will not be impressed with unnecessary steps that impede a frictionless experience.
  • Have a call to action. Let people know that an item is NFC-enabled, how they can use it and what they should expect.

There are three aspects that make near field communication a truly notable technology: its prevalence, customization and applicability. A vast majority of adults own a smartphone and usually carry it with them at all times. Add in the fact that all new smartphones have NFC capabilities and the possibilities are expanded for this market. NFC can be used in myriad ways across industries and lines of business, making it both a flexible and relevant technology for just about every company. 

Using these guidelines, any organization can find helpful ways to better secure their business, promote new products and offerings or engage with their customers. It’s all about envisioning the experience you want to create — whether with consumers or your own employees — and partnering with a company that can make it happen.