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9 Surprising Real-Life Uses For NFC, The Technology Transforming Mobile Payments

Put an NFC tag on your bedside table, and you can program it to stay quiet for the night. Photo: Shutterstock

Imagine a world without credit cards, cash or wallets. That’s what Near Field Communication tech has been promising for some time.

But the take up of the technology has been slow in Australia, and globally, so far. One of the biggest impediments has been that iPhones don’t currently have an NFC antenna – it’s a tech that has been largely for Android users. But NFC stickers and tags are changing that, acting as a work around for iPhone owners.

Plus, there are a few indicators that the iPhone 6, due to launch in a few weeks’ time, will include NFC.

NFC is a simple feature which transfers small amounts of data between two devices. It can be used for simple commands, to make payments or share information. We’ve pulled together some real-life uses that might help you get a better handle on the power of the technology.

1. It can help with the problem of split bills

Your phone transforms into a digital wallet with NFC. It’s like black magic. NFC allows you to pay for a cab, dinner or almost anything else with a tap. Which means not only will you be covered if you forget your wallet, but it can also be used to transfer funds between friends with a quick tap, so you can split a dinner bill without annoying the wait staff.

2. It could be used as your bus or train ticket

In Australia, the NSW government has spent a substantial amount of money rolling out its Opal card system. NFC has the capability of taking this system one step further.

Your phone can become your train, bus or ferry ticket. All you would have to do is swipe your device when you’re boarding and again when you hop off – getting rid of cards or passes.

It’s already being used in Hong Kong with the city’s Octopus cards. An app on your phone holds your ticket details and allows you to wave on and off the train.

3. It can remember passwords for you

WiFi passwords are usually long, complicated and difficult to remember. Rather than having to figure out which letters are capitals and where the numbers go, NFC technology can be used to scan and log a device onto a network.

The InstaWiFi app in Google’s Play Store can connect users by tapping the device against a sticker which you can place somewhere convenient so guests can connect to your internet with little fuss.

4. As another payment option, you don’t have to give out your credit card details as much

NFC means you can tap a reader when the pizza guy shows up with your door, as long as he brings an NFC-compatible payment device. If he doesn’t show or if your not happy with the delivery you haven’t paid for it, which you would have done with a pre-paid order using your credit card. But possibly best of all, you haven’t shared your credit card details over the phone with yet another business.

5. It can connect your phone to your car

A Bluetooth-compatible car radio can be used with an NFC tag. You can program it to connect to your phone, play your favourite playlist or turn on Google Maps. This means you don’t have to touch your phone while your driving – it’s all synced up and playing your favourite beats or telling you when to turn.

6. You could use it to get a better night’s sleep

Sticking an NFC tag which puts your phone on silent beside your bed can do wonders for your sleep patterns. You can program it to switch your phone to flight mode or silent for, say, eight hours so you aren’t interrupted through the night.

It may sound like a task you could just do manually but it’s much easier to wave your phone past the tag en route to bed.

7. It can improve your tourism experience

NFC can be used to guide tourists around a city. They can wave their devices in front of tags to give them information about iconic landmarks, download maps or coupons. The tech doesn’t require wifi and can transfer small bits of data to keep tourists informed. A nifty little smart city hack.

8. It brings back the mix tape!

NFC is bringing back the mix tape. Sharetapes allow you to make playlists and share it with friends using the technology. Who doesn’t love a mix tape? It’s a creative way to use the technology and you can keep the cards in your car, wave your phone at them and play your music without pressing any buttons.

9. Interactive Advertising

You’re walking past a bus stop and see an advert for a movie or see a house for sale. All you need to do is wave your phone in front of the advert and you will be able to instantly watch a trailer or get more information. QR codes currently do this, but it can be a bit hit-and-miss, and it’s also a one-way-only data transfer.

NFC chips and stickers are tiny, and also relatively cheap. Their increasing prevalence in both mobile handsets and in retailers means people are rapidly becoming used to the idea, so it’s a space to watch for consumers, and fertile ground for innovators.

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