Who is this article for?
Technologists, investors and business professionals that see opportunity in near field communications will find interest in this article. The primary purpose of this article is to help broaden the vision of near field communication and its impact on our world.
Just the electronic wallet?
So near field communication is all about electronic wallets like the Google Wallet or Square right? Partly.
Near field communication is more than this. The eWallet is the first, and potentially one of the more profitable, applications that near field communication makes possible. But the killer opportunity that sits within reach of Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, RIM, Microsoft and others is your identity.
The fundamental flaw in the world wide web
Jump in the time machine for a second and go back 20 years. The internet was just starting to be adopted, but there was a major flaw that no one took seriously at the time. That flaw was security or more appropriately: reliable identification of users on the internet. The flaw was intentional. The original creators of the standards that now comprise the internet didn’t envision a world of interconnected web applications. Their vision was isolated to viewing, sharing, editing, and preserving documents in electronic medium.
As the web evolved web applications became common place but each site had its own authentication and authorization mechanisms. There was no common way to identify a user across the many different websites being published.
In time, attempts were made to set standards, and some organizations promoted their identification technologies as a standard that other sites could use. But all of these solutions required scale and size. Even with the means to promote a security standard many of these organizations hesitated in opening it up to other sites, developers for fear of hacking attempts.
Sites were loathe to accept the standards promoted by others because they weren’t “open” and tied the web site to a particular security standard that couldn’t be easily shared or transferred.
This all led to the common problem each of us has today: a laundry list of user ids and passwords for each web site.
How does NFC solve the multiple user id and password issue?
Your mobile device is becoming an abstraction of you. They’re not just phones but small computers that can contain all key information about you and your possessions.
In any given day you may need to transmit this type of data to other people, companies, employers, organizations, web sites, governments, or healthcare providers. But today you have to transmit this information manually by writing, typing or speaking. What is the problem with this? Well…some of that data is hard to remember or gets lost easily. Another problem is that this data can change, but you can’ t remember everyone that needs an updated record….so some of your accounts have bad data. Still another issue is that the data is all over the place…increasing the chance it will be subject to identity theft and driving up the cost for an organization storing such data.
Near field communication will change all this. You can keep all your personal identification data securely on your device and then share it with an organization by simply tapping it on a reader and then entering you passcode on the device’s software to authorize and select data to transmit. The key to security in this case is that your ‘account’ is stored on your device and can only transact data with a reader when you authorize it through entering your passcode. It can’t be lifted by someone walking by with a really strong antenna and good hacking skills as some have suggested.
Think about how that changes applying for a loan, authenticating to a computer, registering for a 5k race, setting up an account to play World of Warcraft?
Killer app? You bet and worth 10s of billions. Whoever holds the identities of the world will know how, what, when, where, and glean why those identities do what they do. That’s marketing data. That’s security and homeland defense data. That’s research and university study data.
So near field communication along with other mobile technologies ( GPS for example ) turns your device into….well….YOU. It will connect you to everything and in turn will identify you to all the things, organizations, and people around you. This has the potential of reducing wait times and account authorization. Further benefits might include greater security and trust as we begin to know that there is one trusted identity for every person. Google’s Wallet may be the start of the NFC revolution…but there are more fantastic applications coming. As I posted in my last article, The Externet, mobility and NFC are bringing our real and virtual worlds closer together.
About the Author
Christopher R. Goldsbury is a software development professional who has played the roles of developer, architect, scrum master, development manager, project manager and quality assurance manager throughout his career. Chris writes on his experiences and ideas at his blog: http://www.anagilestory.com.