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Augmented Reality and NFC. The wave of the future?

Submitted by on Thursday, 8 September 20112 Comments

This morning a colleague of mine attended a talk about NFC (near field communications). The talk was aimed at how NFC is set to become the technology of the decade and the impact it will have on mobile phones. I got thinking that while NFC is certainly going to be big, it’s perhaps a stepping stone for augmented reality.

OEMs are climbing over themselves to put NFC into the latest and greatest mobile phones and within just few years we are expected to pay for items just by pressing our smartphone against the special receivers. It’s surprising how many people (especially here the UK) think that NFC is a new technology. That Oyster card you use everyday to pay for your ticket to work is a good example of NFC payments in action. In the very near future handset manufactures will be vying for you to ditch the Oyster card, and your credit card and make payments using your phone instead.

Before I get to the AR part, the talk this morning was around pushing NFC into mobile. Of course credit card companies will be pushing NFC enabled cards too (there are some available already) so which system becomes the most popular is anyone’s guess. Phones are pretty much ubiquitous and an item that is always with you, but becoming my digital wallet at the same time is a little to much of ‘too many eggs in the one basket’ for my liking. The other an answered question is what kinds of phones will we be using in the future. Will our mobile devices continue to be smartphones or will we see AR enabled glasses with calling capabilities?

Assuming it’s the latter, and my disclaimer here is I still think glasses are 15 years away. It’s never a popular view particularly with those that want them now or those that are making them, but show me something that works with the services I want and I’ll reconsider. In our AR enabled future where glasses have replaced the smartphone, AR glasses would be able to use GPS  or NFC to determine the wearers current location to validate payments. Taking your glasses off and waving them over a receiver is not going to be practical but combing payments with GPS is interesting,  If your wallet is attempting to buy something from the high street but you are 100 miles away then it’s a good indication that it’s a fraudulent transaction. For those high value purchases using eye tracking or gestures enable you to make secure payments by entering a pin in a virtual world that only you can see.  If your glasses are stolen, without your pin  the thief would be unable to go on a spending spree.

Such a system could also be used to automatically validate a payment, for example if the system detects that you have entered a train station the fare could be deducted from your wallet as soon as you begin travelling. There is of course no real reason why a smartphone can’t provide a present day version of this, but it interesting to imagine the ticket inspectors with a Layar or Wikitude showing who has a valid ticket and who is trying to avoid the fare.

When I think about augmented reality I think more towards GPS for location than NFC, but perhaps AR will enable us to learn more about individual objects. For example, AR thanks to image recognition enables me to identify a chair as a chair, but it wont give me the history behind that individual chair. Could NFC and AR become a way to store an objects identity and history?

Perhaps there are even better ideas on how augmented reality and NFC complement each other or do you think they are mutually exclusive?

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