"Something must be wrong, I don't know why it isn't working. Can I try again?" Your grocery bags are packed, and the clerk behind the counter is looking skeptical. A quick glance behind you reveals that a long line has formed and is growing increasingly restless. You desperately wave your smartphone across the sensor as instructed -- nothing. The cashier asks you for another form of payment, but you have none. That's why you're trying to pay wirelessly in the first place.
Moments like these don't bode well for Near Field Communication (NFC) transactions.
The technology establishes a communication link between two devices and lets them share information across a very short, limited distance without being physically connected. Since Nokia, Sony, and Philips established the NFC Forum in 2004, many discussions about the viability and potential use of NFC capabilities have taken place. The devices certainly have the potential to serve business, manufacturing, and consumer needs. However, before it can deliver on its promise, NFC must address key concerns for each party.
The business and public sectors most commonly employ NFC as a point-of-sale (POS) mechanism. The transportation, retail, hospitality, and banking industries account for most consumer POS stations. You see this technology when you wave your debit or credit card in front of a sensor to pay for groceries, or when you wave a transit card in front of pay stations before getting on the bus, subway, or train.
The increased demand for NFC POS terminals has motivated device manufacturers to integrate NFC capabilities into their wireless devices. This is especially true for smartphones. In February, IHS Technology predicted that 416 million NFC-enabled smartphones will ship in 2014; this number is expected to increase to 1.2 billion by 2018. Furthermore, Strategy Analytics forecasts that SIM-based NFC supported transactions (as enabled by smartphones) will total more than $50 billion worldwide from 2010 to 2016.
If consumers are to accept NFC as a technology that will let their smartphone absorb their wallet, keys, and security badges, NFC systems must earn their trust. Asking consumers to change the way people conduct financial transactions and access transportation, sporting events, or their home and business is asking for a great leap of faith. Just think of the grocery store scenario mentioned above. One experience like that, and it will be a long time before you give an NFC reader a second chance.
At LitePoint, we believe that NFC technology has great potential to simplify and streamline daily life. It's doing its part to support this new infrastructure and help build trust between manufacturers and consumers with comprehensive test solutions.
By employing parametric testing of NFC devices on the production floor (as opposed to the rudimentary go/no-go testing common today), manufacturers can prevent embarrassing scenes (like the one at the grocery store) that can hurt NFC's reputation. Testing will become even more important; the number of NFC-enabled smartphones is projected to grow 325% from 2013 to 2018 to nearly 1.2 billion units.
It's clear that NFC has numerous practical applications and incredible potential. We're at a critical juncture in the development of NFC-enabled devices and infrastructure. The customer experience must be exceptional if NFC is to gain consumer and business confidence. There are many pieces to making this experience come together as a whole, but one fundamental component is ensuring proper device operation through the application of comprehensive, data-centric device testing.