NFC putting magic into the world

By Tom Wood @Foolproofer

Last night was the finale of the Near Field Norwich event run by Hot Source, a local meet-up group.

The month-long event allowed teams to use a Near Field Communications (NFC) campaign management platform developed by Proxama. It was the first event of its kind in the UK, so this was the first look by a UK creative community at the potential of this emerging technology.

The outcome was remarkable. Eleven teams presented prototypes which had an almost breath-taking range and diversity.

In many ways the technology is stunningly simple: phone taps tag in some physical world context; tag interacts with phone; phone does something (like deploy an app feature, or call data in from the internet). In the initial briefing a lot of people were quietly asking ‘Isn’t this just like an automatic QR code?’ The answer to that is ‘Yes and no’.

Yes, the central function is just like a QR code calling on data in response to physical world interaction. But no, the removal of the physical fumbling and time spent reading a QR code creates a huge difference. It means that the user experience is frictionless, magical – and this creates a completely new world of creative possibilities.

Ideas we saw last night included:

  • A tool to help emergency medical professionals access translation tools to communicate with patients who don’t speak English
  • A system for one-tap connection for free wifi in bars, coffee shops and the like
  • A massive multiplayer post-apocalyptic zombie-infestation game played across a city (There had to be zombies, right?)
  • A customer research platform to allow the management of international point-of-sale feedback and surveying activity
  • Our entrants showed how NFC part identification could solve a big business problem in the replacement windscreen market

We also entered an idea around using NFC to take betting on popular sporting events onto the streets and into the pub. We saw that tagged posters and point-of-sale material could allow gaming brands to close the gap between attention and action in betting.

For example, over £300 million will be bet on the Grand National this year, making for intense advertising competition between the major gaming companies. If advertising and POS stopped being passive reminders about the race, but became the beginning of the betting interaction then it could create a dramatic competitive advantage.

I’m convinced that NFC is a technology which will extend that experience out into the physical world.

If you’d like to have a play with the Proxama platform and see some of the ideas that came out of the event (including our own) then get in touch with me – or leave a comment below.

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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