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Newly Found Creativity (NFC)

Week 18, 2008

The WIMA conference and exhibition happened this week in Monaco. This event has quickly turned into one of the major places to meet for a mix of technical and marketing people, all involved in NFC developments.

The presence of many university labs, start-ups and small companies provides an enthusiasm we hadn't seen for a while. Everyone from small companies is involved in applying NFC to unforeseen applications, to explore new business territories, to integrate NFC with a variety of existing (or future) technologies, etc…. These small companies anticipate a business case for what they do, and start developing new technologies and applications right away. The major point is that these small companies don't wait for the big players to sit and go through lengthy negotiations rounds to finally reach an agreement about standards or revenue share, they are fast, they develop their applications, implement them and create the base of NFC applications the industry needs.

This year in WIMA, several companies were particularly noticed. In France, Airtag provides NFC based marketing services dedicated to retailers, including payment, loyalty, couponing, smart posters, …. Nexperts, a British company, which has packaged a NFC developer starter kit, is proposing applications in the field of mobile data acquisition, cashless vending, transport and entertainment. At the same time, Payter proposes its close environment electronic purse, based on NFC, which also includes loyalty programs. Payter is the operator of the multi application Rotterdam, Netherlands, City Center pilot. And Over-C, based in the UK, chose not to wait for standards, but to develop and implement now enterprise-centric applications, providing an improved information flow for large companies operations.

Not everyone is as enthusiastic! Even if banks are involved in many NFC trials and pilots this year, it is hard to anticipate when and how financial institutions will move towards new NFC applications. In their presentations, the lack of a full range of NFC handsets, and the ongoing discussion about the NFC business case are often quoted by banks as an excuse not to do anything. It seems that banks and telecom operators are busier discussing revenue sharing issues than to actually generate any revenue at all through actual application implementation. Or is banks reluctance to push for NFC applications coming from investment restrictions due to the financial crisis where there are on the front line?

While banks are hesitating, and delaying decisions, many other NFC applications are starting, such as marketing applications or enterprise applications. Another opportunity is the development of non-EMV payment applications, for instance with a closed e-purse system, or with privately issued cards. If banks keep on waiting for too long, NFC development may take place without them.

Thierry Spanjaard
Chief Editor
Smart Insights