Although very exciting, the news today that the iPhone 6 will have NFC in the form of Apple Pay will not be the watershed moment for NFC that people hope. So far, Apple has not confirmed the inclusion of an all purpose NFC SDK that will let developers access more NFC features than those supported by the Apple Pay API. Since I’ve predicted that there will not be full access to all NFC modes, I will assume that no SDK for NFC will surface in the next ten days or so.
Unlike iOS apps, Android apps are subject to be run on a multitude of phone types. Generally, developers test on the most common phones and there exist many best practices that make apps more adaptive to various Android versions and devices and become almost device-agnostic. However, when developing NFC apps on Android, incompatibilities are more subtle and the Android SDK does not provide sufficient tools to compensate for device variance. The end result is that the NFC app may not work on devices with the same Android version on which developers tested it.
With all the cautious excitement among NFC professionals and enthusiasts about the iPhone 6, it’s inclusion of NFC is becoming the most common question that I’m asked these days. The iPhone and NFC, the unavoidable elephant in the room. One thing is certain though, if NFC is not included, physical space on the back of the phone will become as valuable as icon space on a user’s main screen. IPhone users often affix their NFC cards to the phone and use them by holding it to a reader.
More and more these days, the solutions we implement at TapTrack lend themselves to a 10” NFC enabled tablet. In fact, we joke at the office how the Nexus 10 will go down in history as one of the best tablet values of all time. But alas, those are no longer stocked at Google and the second hand market is drying up. This leaves us to search for other tablets in the 10” category that are NFC enabled.
iBeacon is a technology in Apple’s new OS that determines a phone’s position in a retail store using the technology of innovative companies like Estimote and Indoors. Introduced in Apple’s latest iPhone 5S, iBeacon uses active devices to both send and receive data over Low Energy Bluetooth (BLE). Since BLE relies on battery power, it can function at much greater distances than NFC can. With its roots in RFID technology, many NFC applications use passive tags requiring no battery whatsoever (they draw enough power from the phone’s device to function with enhanced security).
While it may be a while before NFC applications are mainstream among consumers, here at TapTrack we see a tremendous opportunity in enterprise and B2B applications. Enterprise NFC applications abound – whether it’s to help track grape harvesting or enable staff to quickly access equipment specifications on their mobile device.The enterprise market is particularly attractive since implementing an enterprise NFC solution elegantly solves the two main problems standing in the way of consumer-centric applications: the lack of NFC-enabled phones, and a lack of consumer education surrounding the use of the technology.