NFC has long been tied with mobile payments. However, the mobile payments trend has been slow to take off. In fact, paying for items with one’s phone seems to be the least common use for the close-range connectivity technology right now, at least based on gadgets unveiled at the CES (Consumer Electronics Show).
Basically, all products using NFC shown at the CES employed the technology in one of the two ways: To set up a sort of digital connection between a mobile device and another gadget, or as a way to share information between products with just a tap.
Here are some products that use NFC (not all of these were announced at CES):
■Virtual press kits and business cards — Various companies use NFC as a fast way to share their contact information and press releases. To access the information, people just need to tap their NFC-enabled phone to the item, typically a wristband or business card. Samsung, for example, handed NFC-enabled wristbands to all attendees at its press conference. Sharp also gave out business cards embedded with its press release.
■Information points such as posters — Caesars Entertainment, owner of eight hotels and casinos in Las Vegas, installed more than 4,500 interactive Samsung TecTiles in its resorts. Anyone with an NFC-enabled device will be able to tap the various TecTiles for information such as show times, restaurant menus, and ticket purchases.
■Speakers — Many new speakers use NFC to pair with a smartphone, yet the music is not actually streamed to the system via NFC but is shared through Bluetooth. Samsung and Sony are two notable companies with NFC speakers.
■Headphones — The function is much like wireless speakers. Users tap their phone to the headphones to allow pairing for the transfer of music. Sony also makes these headphones.
■Boomboxes and other music players — Sony, again.
■Cameras — At least two cameras introduced at CES included NFC capabilities: the Panasonic Lumix ZS30 and the Panasonic Lumix TS5. Along with built-in Wi-Fi, the cameras should enable “the widest range of remote shooting options, remote viewing, and instant sharing on social networks.”
■TVs — LG and Sony were two big companies showing off NFC-enabled TVs at CES. Like with audio devices, NFC is used to pair a phone to the TV by tapping the two together.
■Remote controls — Users tap their phones to their remote instead of their TV to pair the device to the television. Sony is one company doing this.
■Appliances — LG showcased a number of washers, dryers, ovens, refrigerators, and vacuums with NFC technology. After pairing the appliance with a phone, users can program their products from afar, such as turning on a washing machine while still in the office.
■Smart kitchen items — Panasonic has made an NFC-enabled rice cooker and a steam microwave oven. Users can search for recipes and program cooking instructions using their smartphones.
■Computers — HP has announced the SpectreOne all-in-one desktop PC in last September, which incorporates NFC technology. Via a sensor built into the base of the unit, users can log into the SpectreOne or transfer files to it by simply swiping a smartphone or another device equipped with NFC. HP’s Envy 14 Spectre ultrabook also includes NFC, as does Sony’s Vaio Tap 20 mobile desktop PC.
■Smart meters for utility companies — Landis+Gyr in late 2011 said it was working with NXP Semiconductor on energy management products with integrated NFC.
■Digital bubble gum machine — Last July, digital advertising agency Razorfish developed a high-tech prototype version of the gun ball machine, which allows users to download digital content like apps and movies to their NFC-enabled phone for a small fee.
■Heart monitor — A joint venture called Impak Health has developed the RhythmTrak heart monitor. The product can track certain heart-related data, which can then be downloaded or sent to a clinician by placing it next to an NFC-enabled phone.
■Wii U — It’s not really clear how NFC will be used in this Nintendo console, but it may allow users to do things like add new characters to games.
■Cars — An NFC-enabled smartphone will be able to unlock Hyundai cars by 2015.