6 cool uses of near-field communication

NFC is about much more than Google Wallet and corporate ID badges

6 cool uses of near-field communication

Google Wallet, the search giant's new payment method that involves waving your smartphone in front of an NFC (near-field communication) scanner, has made the technology a hot topic in tech circles. Some Android and BlackBerry devices support NFC, mainly for sharing contact info and other snippets with other people with compatible devices.

But there's more to today's NFC than just paying for stuff (and those badges you use to get into your office every day). In fact, NFC use has expanded into all sorts of uses, from parking meters to health monitoring. Here's a rundown of what's been happening in the NFC realm.


Health care requires a lot of information these days, including patient identification, insurance coverage, and payment information. PatientID+ unites all that info and stores it in one place: either on the user's PatientID+ contactless tag or in their NFC phone. The patient then enters a PIN to access and transmit the information to the health care provider on arrival, bypassing the tedium of filling out forms and making sure data is accurate.

ATI Log-IC NFC Logger

Shipping temperature-sensitive goods is serious business. It's not just about keeping ice cream from melting (though a noble goal in and of itself) -- it applies to bigger concerns, such as making sure pharmaceuticals and medical specimens don't spoil and chemicals don't start any unwanted reactions. Typically, temperature-sensitive shipping required lots of specialized equipment, but now, shippers simply need these NFC data loggers and an Android app to keep tabs on thermometer readings.


This device-and-app combo is mighty handy for folks dealing with sleep disorders: The device attaches to your arm while you sleep, during which it tracks symptoms associated with inefficient sleep (recording how active you are during sleep, for example). Then it is read via NFC the next morning, and the app analyzes the data and provides suggestions for better sleep habits. The downside: SleepTrak is available for only T-Mobile customers who use a Nokia Astound NFC phone.

Bus tickets

Ticket inspectors working for the public transport operators in Los Angeles and Minneapolis-St. Paul are now using NFC phones to read passengers' transport tickets and check that they've paid their fare. The previously used handheld devices were bulky, and they were energy gobbles, but NFC smartphones have provided a significant hardware upgrade.

The Museum of London

Looking to create a more interactive experience, the Museum of London teamed up with Nokia to create NFC-enabled apps. Visitors with NFC-enabled devices can learn more about various objects on display, buy tickets for future exhibitions, get vouchers for the museum's shop and cafés, and Like or follow the museum on various social media platforms.

Parking meters

Unfortunately, NFC doesn't provide a way to eliminate paying for parking altogether, but if you're stuck having to feed a meter, NFC can at least make it quick and easy. PayByPhone's meter setup lets those with NFC phones tap the sticker on the parking meter to automatically launch the parking app, enter the amount of parking time they wish to buy, and have the fee charged to a credit or debit card associated with the mobile phone number. As a bonus, PayByPhone will even send a text message reminder before the parking period expires so that additional time can be purchased by phone from any location if necessary.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.