NFC in the user experience - Foolproof home movies

By Tom Wood @Foolproofer

I was recently asked by Econsultancy to speak at their Future of Digital Marketing conference about technologies which could influence user experience in the next year or so.

My talk also covered augmented reality, gestural interface and voice interaction, but I thought I’d share these two short home movies which focus on near-field communications (NFC). There are two reasons for this:

i) My talk concludes that NFC is probably the most imminently important technology out of the four I looked at. This is mainly because it has the most potential to reduce friction in customer experiences – and customers really like reduced friction.

ii) Because both the ideas in these films come out of the NFC hack event we helped to organise and which I’ve written about previously. As such they are good examples of applications for NFC that can be imagined and made quickly by non-experts in the technology. If we can do it, you can too.

Near Field Communications is simply a new set of standards for short range radio contact between devices. So what, you might ask. We’ve been tapping our oyster cards and trying to figure out a use for Bluetooth for years, right?

At the heart of NFC is something called a tag. This is a tiny chip with a flat wire coil, usually mounted in a sticker the size of an address label. When an NFC-enabled smartphone comes within about 3 centimetres of it, the phone’s energy wakes it up and the chip passes a tiny bit of information (often a web address) to the phone so that it can pull in the relevant content from the web. It’s a bit like what a QR code achieves only the connection is made instantly and automatically, so no fumbling with apps or cameras.

And basically anyone can put these tags anywhere. They are now so cheap and easy to configure that it makes it possible to embed links into physical objects like signs, packaging or posters.

NFC-enabled phones are now being produced in the millions, meaning the early majority will have this in their hands by next year. Samsung and Blackberry are already committed, and there are strong rumours that the next iPhone will ship with NFC.

Film one: betting use-case for NFC

This one pretty much introduces itself. The film looks at some concepts for using NFC in a gambling context.

Film two: tap-to-wifi

This is a prototype of a system which allows users to tap for an instant connection to Wifi. Wifi is offered for free in coffee shops, pubs and cafes across the country, but it’s often a hassle to connect. The people who came up with the idea filed a patent and have now secured funding from Wayra to develop the idea commercially under the company name Blue Butterfly.

This is such a great example of how NFC can be used to file the rough edges off everyday experiences. Imagine how much more likely you would be to ‘like’ or tweet about a cafe which offered this service.

Author’s note: As is painfully obvious, no professional actors were harmed in the making of these films. Try to focus on the technology, not the dialogue.

Tom Wood

I’m one of the two founders of Foolproof. Within projects I usually take a role both in planning our approach and in the generative phases of design. I’m also active in gathering client and customer needs into the design space. My particular talent is helping senior stakeholders see and understand the customer’s world in richer detail, and helping them work out how to respond.

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