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NFC: Coming soon to a device near you

SVP Innovation

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As part of our regular feature on new mobile technologies, we’re keeping close watch on the forthcoming wave of NFC (Near Field Communications) devices that are just starting to appear in the hands of users and service providers across North America. This particular technology has started off more strongly across the pond, and we’re seeing some really innovative uses in Europe and Asia that hint at the direction we can expect the market to go.

NFC is a communications protocol that allows devices to wirelessly exchange information just by being in near proximity to each other. It allows, for example, your NFC-equipped smartphone to show you more information when you tap it on an NFC-equipped poster in the subway. It also allows two devices to exchange contact information just by being tapped together (like Bump does now for iOS and Android phones). This conceptual video from RIM shows what life could be like for an NFC-equipped BlackBerry user in the not too distant future:

NFC devices and services are in the market today. This isn’t a distant future state vision — you might already be using NFC without even knowing it. Visa’s PayWave technology is built around it, allowing you to pay for things with a simple tap of your card. Google Wallet is too, swapping an Android phone for the traditional wallet full of credit and loyalty cards. NFC is popping up in some unexpected places too, replacing hotel room keys at the Clarion Hotel in Sweden, helping people to order taxis in Taiwan, and powering billboard ‘touchpoint’ advertising in Reading, UK.

NFC will be important for pharma and health marketers. We anticipate a number of uses once NFC gains substantial market adoption in smartphone devices. A quick top ten:
  1. The first (and maybe most anticipated!) is the death of QRCodes, as suggested in our Top 10 Trends for 2012 post (see #8).
  2. Tap to reorder samples and supplies by tapping an NFC antennae built-into product packaging.
  3. Tap to view additional information, replacing web keys built into promotional material that require insertion into a USB port.
  4. Tap to view rich media information (video, etc.) integrated into magazine ads, print marketing pieces, magazines, etc.
  5. Tap NFC antennas on pill bottles to provide a quick way to confirm dosage schedules, potential side effects and interactions, etc. Could become part of adherence programs.
  6. Tap calendar reminder stickers that patients can put on appointment days on their physical calendars, with functionality to view additional information, call the HCP, etc.
  7. Tap to pay with a co-pay ‘cards’ at pharmacy.
  8. Tap to share your information with EMR systems at the HCP’s office.
  9. Tap to share information from HCP to patients’ devices at point of care, or receiving patient education materials in the waiting room.
  10. Tapping on implantable devices (defibrillators, insulin pumps, neural stimulation sensors, etc.) for reading and control. There’s a fascinating IEEE paper on this very topic: Suitability of NFC for Medical Device Communication and Power Delivery.

We’re really excited about the future of NFC here at Klick Health and will be continuing to monitor its gradual adoption through an ongoing series of NFC Watch posts. Stay tuned for more!

More About the Author

Jay Goldman

Jay has been providing a human side to technology for nearly fifteen years, as a technologist, strategist, user experience specialist, and visual designer. As Senior Vice President of Innovation, Jay leads our strategic efforts in mobile and social media, product development, and research and insights.

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