Near Field Communication - Top Wireless Technologies in 2013

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What is it?
Near Field Communication (NFC) technology has been around for the better part of a decade. However, NFC for mobile devices--at least in the United States--has yet to truly take off. That may finally change this year due to a number of factors. Chief among them is that more and more devices are being shipped with NFC as a standard feature, creating more possibilities for the technology.

Essentially, NFC allows smartphones and other mobile devices to communication wirelessly with each other if they are close together. This enables mobile payments, data transfers and network setups. The use of NFC for mobile payments often gets the most attention among NFC proponents, mainly because of the amount of money and stake and the heft of players involved. However, other applications, especially data transfers, could also gain mainstream support.

Why is it important?
Most vendors and payment companies agree that NFC is the way to support mobile payments. However, users first need to become more familiar and comfortable with the idea of paying for goods and services using their phone. Isis, the mobile commerce network led by Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile USA, kicked off consumer trials in Austin, Texas, and Salt Lake City in October with nine NFC-enabled smartphones. Although it got off to a somewhat bumpy start, the joint venture recently revealed that the average Isis consumer in Salt Lake City uses the Isis wallet five or more times a week. Isis is expected to expand to more markets this year, but the company has not said when it will do so.

Beyond NFC for mobile payments, data transfer is a hot application. Samsung Electronics made beaming info from one phone to another via NFC a highly-marketed feature of its Galaxy S III smartphone; the new Xperia Z from Sony Mobile Communications also lets users share photos and videos with other smartphones, and connect to speakers and laptops, via NFC. A big question mark though is whether Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) will finally add NFC to the iPhone--the lack of NFC in the iPhone 5 caused Juniper Research to reduce its global NFC retail transaction values to $110 billion in 2017, significantly below the $180 billion Juniper had forecasted in July before the iPhone 5 was unveiled.