Near Field Communication: Coming to a cellphone/tablet near you

December 16, 2010

While perusing my Twitter stream, I noticed this tweet from Seth Hagler: "Nexus S and Android 2.3 to include Near Field Communication. Huge potential for #HigherEd." Ever watchful for new technologies, I clicked on the link in Seth's tweet. Near field communication or NFC is a fairly innovative technology. NFC is a short-range wireless communication technology. Information is exchanged/retrieved when an NFC-enabled device is placed next to another NFC-enabled object. Proximity is important as NFC only works from about 4 inches of separation.

Google, the creators of the Android-based Nexus smartphone, have recently rolled out a Google Places / Hotpot campaign that features NFC technology here in my current state of residence. Debuting in Portland, Oregon, selected businesses will receive NFC-enabled “Recommended on Google” window stickers.

NFC-ready devices aren't that prevalent yet. My Droid X, the top of the line smartphone from Verizon Wireless doesn't have NFC and I'm guessing that your phone doesn't have NFC either. However, as a new technology, NFC does have potential. Seth sent me a couple of DM's via Twitter with ideas for how NFC could be used in student affairs (Note: there are similarities with QR code strategies). Here are Seth's ideas plus a couple of my own:

  • Admissions - campus tours: Seth suggested giving out tablets to prospective students. NFC tagged posters could be at the main entrance of most campus buildings. NFC data would include: videos, building/academic information, and links to a map. I really liked Seth's idea that each tablet would be running the new social media browser "RockMelt." Visitors could post tour-related status updates, tweet at their friends about their experience, and check-in via location-based services. It's a nifty idea as it meshes social media, location-based services, and the built environment in a giant tech-driven mash-up.
  • Admissions - print collateral: NFC chips embedded in direct mail pieces create opportunities to connect prospect students to custom web-based content.
  • Residence Halls and Campus Auxiliaries: When your cellphone becomes your digital wallet and/or access card, things get interesting. Imagine using your phone to enter your residence hall or make purchases in a restaurant at your campus union.
  • Disability Services: Campus signage could be enhanced using NFC-ready signs. A student who is blind could use an NFC-enabled device to listen to an audio recording. It would complement braille on signs and create moments for enhanced information exchange.

What do you think? How would you use NFC at your institution?

I wonder if the RockMelt folks are exploring the use of NFC in conjunction with their browser?

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