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Could NFC "Tap" into the Popularity of Mobile Barcode?

Could a catalyst for consumer NFC adoption be another type of technology? We believe it’s possible. The rapid emergence of near field communication (NFC) during the past 12 months, particularly in the context of NFC-enabled smartphones, has vendors and developers working furiously to create solutions that they hope will be The Next Big Thing. While these efforts have resulted in numerous application concepts ranging from mobile wallets to e-couponing to social networking, no specific application (or application type) has yet gained widespread acceptance among consumers. What can developers and vendors do to increase awareness for their NFC solutions? VDC believes that integrating NFC with other recognizable, more frequently used solutions already present on a consumer’s mobile device — such as mobile barcoding — can improve awareness and understanding of the technology, facilitate adoption and extend the reach of NFC.

Let’s consider, for example, how mobile barcode and NFC could complement each other in the context of a customer-facing supermarket deployment.  Barcodes exist on virtually all products being sold in a supermarket and are increasingly used throughout these stores for a diversity of applications such as pricing, information retrieval/exchange, comparative shopping, promotions, couponing and customer loyalty—but are very rarely used for payment.  NFC is a rapidly emerging technology that enables and enhances many of these applications–including payment–but is generally not used for actual shopping at the shelf, because tagging every item is too costly.  The two technologies, working in concert, could create an all-encompassing shopping solution that unifies the strengths and capabilities of both technologies into a single application deployed on a consumer-owned device. Alone, neither technology is ideally suited for all shopping applications; however, when converged, the two technologies together enable a robust solution capable of supporting the entire shopping process.

Some developers, to a degree, have recognized the opportunity to marry barcode and NFC in a single solution. MobiLead, for example, combines the two technologies for mobile marketing and information access, while DigiMo created a mobile payment solution that allows users to choose between NFC and barcode enabled payment. However, we are unaware of any offering that leverages both technologies for unique, specific functionalities—for example, barcode for scanning and NFC for payment. In both of the aforementioned examples, barcode and NFC provide redundant capability. Although these applications are a step in the right direction, we think the real opportunity lies in using each technology for the specific purpose (or purposes) to which it is best suited.

We recommend NFC providers leverage other technologies and solutions currently used by consumers on their mobile devices (e.g., barcode, GPS). Not only will blending NFC with other technologies enhance a solution in regards to its functionality and value, but it also will facilitate NFC education and adoption. 

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