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NFC: Digital Experience 1.0

July 8, 2008

Imagine walking into the glitzy,shiny and seductive entrances of a mall, and the thousands of people walking and enjoying themselves, having a great time buying and trying out stuff. You always feel good being in this mall. Perhaps because everybody looks so happy, so satisfied. You step onto the shining marble floorings and head for the escalators. The escalator as it rises above the crowd gives you a magnum vision of the crowd beneath.

You have always liked seeing people milling around, tending towards their tastes and shopping around. You came here for a movie though. And of course, time to catch your old friends. Rendezvous in front of the theater. You have always felt excited but this is one of those special times, when you are going to meet your friends first time after almost a decade. As you think and reminisce over the times gone by, your mobile buzzes and you find out, that an interactive highly visualistic piece of application is asking for your attention.

Subject: Current running movies.

You have always felt, that getting into the queue to book the tickets is one of those tradeoffs you have got to do. Or rather yet, a chore. But you are visibly surprised. You touch the TFT screen with a slight push, and it awakens for your command. And vying for your attention is now the application, which is actually telling you, that the last time you watched a movie here was quite some time back, and you deserve a movie this time.

“Hi…”, a male voice, just behind your shoulder.
And standing there was this guy, letting a small smile escape from his mouth, and almost about to hug you if he was not really waiting for the surprise to sink in! You are shocked and pleasatly surprised, to find Rajneesh after such a long time.And he intantly hugs you and lifts you from the floor.

Old times keep coming back.

They always did this in college, whenever they returned from their vacations. Now that you have met him again after such a long time, you are definitely not gonna lose contact again. And suddenly your mobile buzzes. And when you see, on its screen is Rajneesh surrounded and hugged by two beautiful kids.

“So you got those shared pictures transferred, eh?”, says Rajneesh

“How sweet! They are your girls?”, you are visibly surprised to see your best friend having girls looking every bit like him.

The mobiles in the meantime, exchanged the shared data, resident in each other. Of course, only shared PUBLIC data. Which Rajneesh has allowed as selected photos of his family, and you have allowed as your selected profile.

Of course, this exchange is seamless, extremely safe and happens only when two persons are really close [literally!] Rajneesh’s mobile picked out your data, and ran a check with its previously stored data. Sometime, somewhere, Rajneesh must have thought about you, spoke about you or written about. The device understands,you are somebody whom Rajneesh misses, so goes ahead to show you his family.

After the joy of meeting one has just satiated, when the entire gang ambled in. Your ol’ gang. The Rockers! Everybody used to call you guys Rockers! Not becuase you were rock music fans or something like that. But because,you rocked every party, every meet of yours.

Your best mate, Lina has put on a few extra pounds, but still looks the every bit of ravishing Lina. Arjun, (finally) grew a moustache, and then there was Shankar,Mahesh and Aamir. All looking everybit of charmers. And then of course, the winsome,lithesome, bubbly girls of the group Dia and Payal. Dia, Payal and You were know as the girls out to watch out for! [else they could create a havoc!]

As you all meet, the contact information seamlessly, gets exchanged. Either, the identity is confirmed by a mutual friend’s mobile or from the personal account information over the net. Accessible anywhere, anytime. Each person has their personal information, acquaintances and contacts stored. So whenever, you people meet, your cell phone automatically recognizes and says ‘Hey there! I know you and you can trust me’

As the heady rendezvous uncorks, you decide to watch a film, like the times gone by, for the old times sake. You flip out your cell phone, and check the promos running. The trailer instantly gets streamed to your mobile and you pick out one of the movies. Even there was some helpful advices from the system which instantly on real time passed suggestions and pulled out a movie which will suit everybody, almost everybody! 🙂

As you go near the poster of that movie to catch some more info, a message beeps saying that, only 20 seats are left, and the rush makes the server feel, that it will be over by the next 10 minutes. So it will be better to hurry. You for a split second wonder, can even a server feel and then decide to let it pass.

You tap your mobile onto the RFID enabled poster and the very [RFID-enabled] mobile which was happily swapping pics,family videos and public profiles of your friends till sometime back, now becomes an efficient salesgirl.

As you tap, the seating arrangement flashes into your mobile screen. You select the entire row, and after a second, the confirmation is issued. 9 seats and entire row! As you make the payment, again over the mobile, you wonder how the movie watching experience has changed over time. An electronic ticket is transferred from the RFID embedded poster to your mobile and you wave your friends towards the door. Te show starts by, around 15minutes. As you walk through it, the RFID chip embedded in the door, checks for the ticket, and your mobile instantly reciprocates to the request. A thank you message is flashed and the entire layout of the theater and the directions for seating is shown on your TFT screen. As you about to sit on the wrong row, the mobile buzzes and alerts that the row selected is wrong. The designated row is one step above. You let out a small thanks and feel relieved. In fact, you have always hated sitting in some other row, discovering after the fifth minute that your were supposed to be seated in the previous or next row.

You sit down and cozy out. Instantly a menu appears on the screen asking for anything you wish for. You order a hot dog and ask others to fill out their choices. They do through their own mobiles, and the deduction is made wirelessly. Soon five minutes later, a pleasant looking guy walks in with your order, and you are visibly surprised at the luxury bestowed on you.

Movie ends, but your life has just began.

Welcome to Future!

Welcome to future! This is not a science fiction flick or a narration. This is going to happen to you, soon, very soon. The ball has started rolling and many of the things you have just read has already been moved in. In India? Perhaps not yet! But in other places, you bet!

It stuck to me as surprise that, it had been quite some time, that I am blogging over here, talking about business, business point of view of emerging technologies, markets, economy etc. But what seemed to me as strange is that, the very field in which I am working, I am dealing day in and day out, working and developing products for tomorrow, I have unfortunately missed that out.

Yes! Welcome to Tomorrow. Welcome to NFC.

So what exactly is NFC?


No, it has nothing to do with KFC! Its Near Field Communication. An emerging technology which is holding a lot of promise to dynamically alter the way we interact and experience and go about our daily lives.


So is NFC, a brain altering drug technology? Or wait, a neuro-stimulant which brings out the Wolverine or Professor X inside me?


Well, umm… I almost wish it was. I would have tried it on myself first. No, NFC is not a drug, food or anything remotely to do with food. Its a new platform through by which devices talk, communicate and interact with each other bringing out the possibilities of a converged world.


Okay, go slow philosopher! I am yet to figure it out!


Okay, you have seen your bluetooth right? When Bluetooth came in, you thought this is one of the singularly cool things to be discovered. You were promised a lot of possibilities. It is not to say that it has failed you, but you ain’t using it anything other than file transferring are you? Think about it, when internet came in, you were told you could control the washing machine in your home sitting from your office. Not that,you wanted to, but still can you? The problem really doesnt lie in these technologies, they werent really meant for ineracting or exchanging ‘experiences’ , but about exchanging information. Many glitches came into being too. Security was one of the major head aches. Questions like:how can the washing machine in your home know it is you who asked it to stop spinning and start the dryer? Mundane question. But you get the point.

NFC is actually a new protocol which although works fantastically alone, but the real versatility comes out when it sits along with other technologies. Like Bluetooth ’empowered’ NFC. Or Zigbee ’empowered’ NFC. And henceforth, of course bluetooth will do its job, perhaps even better. But because its sitting along with NFC, its real versatility opens up.


Wow! that seems interesting. Keep talking!

Okay, thats cool. Now in the narrative snippet above, can you tell me, how many financial transactions have really taken place?

Only at one place, the mundane file transferring or photo exchange has really taken place, but in all other places, like approaching for the first sale-engaging with content-and closing the sale for the movie, NFC technology has been harnessed. Same cycle for the ordering of snacks inside the theater. And same will go for the restaurant, or even the petrol stations. In fact, in some European countries, there is already a field test going on, with NFC enabled devices [mobiles] deployed on large scale for PoS [pointof sale ] transaction and financial exchange.And what else, in the coming years we will find ourselves increasingly interacting, talking, leveraging and using this technology for our needs, from the most mundane to the most luxurious. At home health monitoring,on the move financial transactions,seamless ticketing,digital identification and secured identity management are all going to be affecting the quality of our lives. Of course, in a positive way.

Wow!

Exactly, wow! In fact, this market, of mobile-led transaction could never have been tapped if not for NFC. What is now happening on the mobile front is just, content delivery [sms/voice] or at the maximum a push-sold-VAS. You understand, ‘push’ sell, dont you? The content providers like ringtone providers and others are actually pushing you to purchase their products, remotely even having an idea, if you are interested or not. Value added Services alone will touch 500billion USD by 2013. And on top of it, NFC enabled VAS is estimated to be hovering somewhere around 347billion USD. So you know the scale I am talking about!


[An appreciative whistle!]

Now bluetooth as such or sms as such can never add the element of interactivity in it, albeit for two reasons. Sms-ing is not meant for interactivity. And Bluetooth was actually made for content transfer not context transfer[ or interactivity]. As per the interaction the context of the interaction changes. If you hadn’t entered the theater, perhaps the menu of hotdogs and lattes would have never popped up!

With this the part 1 of this gentle introduction to the next big thing, ‘NFC’ is coming to a close. Hope by the end of it, you understand a few of the possibilities of this system. Of course there are challenges too, but I think we can handle them. 🙂

I hope, you have got some idea on the things I am working on, and because I am under an NDA to speak about my exact line of work, but I will appreciate if you come back with questions, insights and of course possibilities of this new platform.I will try to answer questions [as long as you dont remind me of office 🙂 ], and add some value to the conversation.

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