Is NFC just for “burgers and buses”?

Alex Walls
May 21, 2013

Is the information transferral method NFC only useful for paying for burgers and buses?

This was the question posed to a panel of mobile payment industry experts at Marketforces’ The Future of Mobile Payments, when the speaker said a colleague had told her NFC was too clunky to handle any other applications.   However banks seemed wedded to the technology, and the question was raised as to whether this was skewing their and card companies mindset when it came to NFC integration.

Mastercard mobile payments lead senior business leader Stephen Wood said the company was moving beyond buses and burgers, but that when the full roll out of contactless payment on Transport for London services (which will see people able to pay using their contactless payment cards on the Tube and Overground by the end of this year) could be transformational in terms of people’s behaviour and understanding of how the service worked.

Starbucks had announced they were rolling out contactless payment, and while this still fit in the burger category, it showed they saw value in contactless payment despite a very strong merchant chain, Mr Wood said.

A lot of work was being done across Europe to introduce contactless payment and NFC was a crucial part of the mix, he said, which would become more valuable when allied with other options.

Royal Bank of Scotland head of mobile Terry Cordeiro said transport was a use case which applied to everyone when it came to contactless payment, since everyone uses public transport at some point, most people every day and because of this, the next phase of the TFL roll out would be “massive”.   Contactless payment had a part to play in engaging customers once in-store for retailers, he said, but there was a maturity that needed to happen in the retail section.

Vocalink business development manager Nick Daniel said he, however, was unsure whether it was applicable elsewhere than on transport, and there was no one technology for everything.   The market would device the use cases for the technology, he said.

Everything Everywhere head of development Jason Rousseau-Hall said with NFC, the market was still at the beginning of the journey and it would take time to get the payment system off the ground.   There were various barriers to uptake including customer behaviour and bank and operator relationships.   As the technology became more widespread and the base was there across the operator industry, the services would hopefully take off, he said.

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