- Written by Nathan Drake
Near Field Communication blogs and articles are abuzz (and will continue to be if the amount of original content doesn’t increase) with the idea that we will soon be paying for everything with our cell phones using near field communication. This is a nice idea and is kind of like saying “One day no car will achieve less than 40 miles per gallon” in that it is almost certainly true… one day. The problem is that “one day” isn’t tomorrow as so many of them would have you believe, and what is more surprising to me than even that fact is that no one seems to be addressing the elephant in the room… why do business want you to pay with NFC?
Here’s how credit card POS (Point of Sale) transactions work right now, and how they have worked for the past few decades. Someone would like to pay for their merchandise and are rung up by the cashier. They swipe their credit card through, a credit card made and manufactured by the credit card company, and either the credit card company or the bank are made aware of the purchase and they do what they do. That’s it. End of transaction… but not the end of the story. There are little details (aren’t there always) that kind of gum up the works when you’re trying to explain why companies want NFC so bad. The credit card reader is probably old… maybe secondhand from a store that went out of business, or refurbished from the manufacturer. This is because credit card readers have now been around for so long that there are good models out there for cheap. It costs little to run these readers and they seldom need to be replaced. People already know how to use these readers, so there is no need to train the employees. There are already deals with banks and credit card companies that allow for the flow of information and funds.
All these things have been around for a long time and they require relatively little money to maintain. Now, in comes NFC complete with a large investment on the parts of everyone involved and for some reason companies want it. Why? Ease of use? Convenience for the customer? Please. Don’t kid yourself. How many customers is a company losing because of the “inconvenience” of swiping the credit card through the machine. The real reason companies want NFC as part of their business model is that they can track your purchases and better evaluate the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns.
This isn’t secret information. Companies have been tracking their customers’ buying habits for years through the internet and loyalty programs. What is different here is that there is a digital trail of everything from how often you look at a promotion received via scanning a promotional poster to how often that scan makes people actually go into the store and buy something.
Now, this doesn’t mean we should not use NFC. For most people it is old news that their buying habits are being monitored. I simply do not feel I am accomplishing my task of informing you of what NFC means to your daily life if I do not make you aware of this information.