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CES 2013: NFC is ‘Now For Consumers’

Near field communications has been around for a while, but at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show it was clear that the technology has made it out of the technical journals and into the products that consumers are buying. From smart TVs to mobile devices to gaming systems to home appliances, NFC was everywhere at CES. The technology enables devices to transfer information and content to one another directly, without using a wireless network.

Sony claims that it has more NFC-enabled devices than any other company. Its newest Xperia Z smartphone can be tapped to the NFC-enabled remotes that control the company’s newest TV sets. The tap transfers content from the smartphone to the TV screen.

Nintendo’s popular Wii U prominently displays an NFC logo, but the company has not yet explained how Wii U will use NFC. “They haven’t announced what they’re going to do with this yet, but you can imagine many things, from interactive figurines to looking for creative ways to pay for things,” says Mohamed Awad, treasurer of the NFC Forum. Awad is also associate line director for NFC at Broadcom (BRCM), the company that makes the NFC chip inside the Nintendo Wii U.

LG kicked off CES with a line of NFC-enabled home appliances. Like Samsung, LG is a Korean conglomerate that makes everything from smartphones to refrigerators, and now the company is apparently trying to combine the best of both worlds. LG’s smart refrigerator will recommend recipes based on what’s inside, and then remotely preheat the smart oven. The smart vacuum cleaner can be steered remotely with a smartphone. All the appliances communicate directly with one another through NFC rather than using a wireless network.

AT&T also highlighted NFC in its press conference, predicting that 2013 will be a breakthrough year for the technology. The Isis mobile wallet, a tap-to-pay smartphone app developed by AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA, uses Broadcom’s NFC chips, as does competitor Google Wallet.

Broadcom’s Mohamed Awad says consumers are just waking up to the idea that their devices can communicate with one another directly. The company’s software takes that communication to the next level; for example an NFC-enabled phone will offer to download an Android app if it is “tapped” by a device running an app that it doesn’t already have. And if a phone is tapped to a Wi-Fi router, it will read the encryption code. Awad says this makes it much easier for consumers to connect smart TVs to the Internet. “You can take your phone, tap it to your access point, the secure connections are loaded into the phone and then you take that same phone and you tap it to the the TV and now you’ve effectively transferred, or invited the TV onto the network,” he said.

As more devices are “invited onto the network,” service providers should see increases in average revenue per user. So while 2013 may be the year that consumers learn that NFC means near field communication, operators could soon start thinking of it as “new found cash.”

Watch Broadcom’s demo of NFC at CES:


Martha DeGrasse
Martha DeGrasse
Martha DeGrasse is the publisher of Network Builder Reports ( At RCR, Martha authored more than 20 in-depth feature reports and more than 2,400 news articles. She also created the Mobile Minute and the 5 Things to Know Today series. Prior to joining RCR Wireless News, Martha produced business and technology news for CNN and Dow Jones in New York and managed the online editorial group at Hoover’s Online before taking a number of years off to be at home when her children were young. Martha is the board president of Austin's Trinity Center and is a member of the Women's Wireless Leadership Forum.

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