Gingerbread Has Support for Mobile Payments

Near-Field Communication.

You're going to be hearing these words, or their TLA (Three-Letter Acronym) a lot, so get used to hearing NFC and we aren't talking National Football Conference.  NFC is a way to enable mobile payments at point of sale, using your mobile phone instead of a credit card.  And why should you care about NFC?

You should take note, because Google CEO Eric Schmidt was discussing NFC at his address to Web 2.0 Summit attendees in San Francisco.  Displaying his Nexus S to the crowd (well, he did tell them the phone was not a Nexus 2), he showed the device running Android OS 2.3 (Gingerbread) and said mobile payment, with support for NFC, was a feature of the upcoming operating system update.  And Google intends to make mobile payments very easy using an Android Gingerbread smartphone.

NFC is widely used in Japan already.  Two NFC-equipped devices can sync data with each other when held nearby or bumped.  A partnership of AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile are testing NFC in Atlanta.  Barclays Bank (also working with the carrier partnership mentioned above) is testing NFC in the United Kingdom.  The N-Mark (left) will be your guide to NFC-enabled terminals and kiosks.

Apple devices mostly likely will also be readied for NFC, as shown by an Apple patent filing.

So why is Schmidt so NFC-happy?  Because Google is a search engine company, and any opportunity to add more useful links between you and your interests where you're spending money means more targeted advertising.  Each time you wave your NFC-equipped device near a POS terminal with the N-Mark, you can buy what you need without fumbling for cash or credit cards.  After all, your mobile device is always with you, right?  So just wave it and you're done; your purchase is logged, your food is paid for, and you're good to go.

NXP Semiconductor, a manufacturer of NFC hardware,  has claimed back in April that Android handsets would be running NFC before Apple's devices were so enabled.  They also suggested end of the year 2010 or early 2011 for a rollout.  And Schmidt said Gingerbread would be out of the oven and cooling in a few weeks.

Do you think an NFC-enabled world would be a better or a worse place?  Certainly the point of purchase will be less of a hassle, but do you want Google to always know what you had for lunch yesterday so it can send you an ad where to go today?  Let us know in comments!

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