In recent times, contactless payment has become a standard practice for many consumers, especially since the onset of the pandemic. However, upon closer inspection, it’s evident that contactless payments are not entirely “contactless.” Users still need to bring their cards or NFC-enabled devices very close to the payment terminal or even place them directly on it. The NFC Forum, the consortium responsible for this technology, aims to change that. Comprising around 100 companies, including Apple, Google, Qualcomm, Huawei, Sony, Visa, and Mastercard, the NFC Forum is committed to developing solutions that are user-friendly, error-free, and reliable.
Illustration depicting a contactless payment transaction with an NFC-enabled device and a payment terminal.
For years, the limited radio range of NFC has been a hindrance. However, the recently presented technology roadmap addresses this issue. The current range of five millimeters, which is only achievable under ideal conditions, will be increased four to six times to a maximum of three centimeters. Even a modest increase in range would significantly enhance contactless transactions, making them faster and easier. It would also improve the user experience by reducing the need for precise antenna alignment. While concerns regarding potential security risks arise, safeguards will undoubtedly be implemented to ensure customer safety.
Furthermore, the NFC Forum’s roadmap includes plans for improved wireless NFC charging. Currently, the NFC wireless charging specification offers a maximum of one watt of power. The Forum intends to raise this power level to up to three watts. Although this represents progress in wireless power supply and charging, it still falls short when compared to other charging solutions such as Qi2, which requires 4.5 watts, Magsafe, which requires 15 watts, or proprietary charging solutions like the Honor Magic 4 Pro, which require 50 watts.
Additionally, the roadmap introduces several other exciting features. One such feature is a multi-purpose tap that can initiate various actions with a single touch. This has numerous applications, particularly in the retail sector. For instance, customers can use it to gain access to a shop, check in immediately, or trigger offers through an app. The NFC consortium also highlights its potential in ticketing and point-to-point delivery.
Device-to-device communication capabilities are another area of interest for retailers. NFC-based payment processes can be initiated between individual smartphones or any mobile devices, leading to a significant shift in the checkout process. This advancement holds promise and could bring about a more streamlined and efficient payment experience.
However, one of the most notable changes enabled by NFC expansion goes beyond payment functions. It has the potential to play a significant role in industry and logistics by facilitating the shared use of data formats. NFC allows for the exchange of data concerning a product’s composition and recyclability, helping companies meet legal requirements and promote a circular economy.
Looking ahead to 2028, it remains uncertain which specific technical specifications will have the most significant impact on NFC’s widespread adoption. While NFC charging still lags behind other technologies, the improved Soft POS capability and the moderate increase in range are undoubtedly positive developments. Ultimately, it will be the hardware manufacturers, responsible for producing POS systems, cards, and NFC-enabled devices like wearables, who will drive greater distribution.
The extensive time frame of two to five years for this project is necessary for adequate long-term planning. Manufacturers must consider the receivers and B2B equipment required to support NFC technology. The NFC Forum acknowledges that the final word has yet to be spoken regarding the individual development stages and associated specifications.
The NFC Forum’s technology roadmap holds the promise of significant improvements in contactless payment systems. By
expanding the range and enhancing wireless NFC charging, users can expect faster, more convenient transactions and an improved overall experience. The introduction of multi-purpose taps and device-to-device communication further enriches the potential applications of NFC technology, especially in retail. Moreover, the shared use of data formats facilitated by NFC opens up possibilities for industry and logistics to meet legal requirements and foster a circular economy. Although there are still details to be clarified and challenges to be overcome, the NFC Forum’s vision for the future of contactless payment is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. How does NFC technology improve contactless payment?
NFC technology aims to increase the range for contactless payments, making transactions faster and easier. It also allows for wireless NFC charging, providing greater convenience for users.
2. What are the benefits of the NFC Forum’s technology roadmap?
The NFC Forum’s roadmap brings several improvements, including expanded radio range, enhanced wireless charging capabilities, multi-purpose taps for various actions, and device-to-device communication. These advancements offer a more user-friendly and versatile contactless payment experience.
3. Will the increased range of NFC transactions pose security risks?
While the increased range may raise concerns, the NFC Forum and associated companies prioritize customer safety. Safeguards will be implemented to ensure secure and error-free transactions.
4. How will NFC technology impact industries beyond payment functions?
NFC technology’s expansion opens up possibilities for sharing data formats, which can have significant implications for industry and logistics. It enables companies to meet legal requirements and promote a circular economy.
5. Who will drive the adoption and distribution of NFC technology?
Manufacturers of hardware, including POS systems, cards, and NFC devices like wearables, will play a crucial role in driving the adoption and distribution of NFC technology.