Is there a mHealth use case for NFC?

Robert Scoble sums up in the latest Gillmorgang group chat about why he thinks NFC is a technology looking for a problem:

customers don’t care about NFC yet, there’s not a starbucks you can buy things with NFC on your phone yet but they do see that there’s this $100 airplay thing that they can go get for $100 and then go home and play pictures and video and spotify on their TV… …I’m 10 mins from Silicon Valley and there ain’t a shop in town that has NFC yet not a single shop and by the way the one that is cool uses PayPal and i just type in my password and charge it to my paypal account… …Starbucks has Square so you can now just walk in with your phone , HomeDepot you can pay with PayPal so you just type in your password… …If I want another one of those $10 connectors I can buy it on my iPhone, walk into the store, pick it off the shelf and walk out without talking to anybody. Now they might stop me at the door and go ‘hey prove that you paid for it’ and you have to open up your app and show it to them, but most of the time I’ve not been stopped buying something and walking out and i’ve done it a few times and I actually asked an employee how that works and he said ‘oh we’re actually watching for you because we know you’re coming into the store, the phone tells us you’re in the store and we know you’re there so why do we need to bother you?’… …it’s a new kind of customer service, Uber‘s the same way i order a taxi on Uber and it comes and picks me up and I get in the taxi, or the ‘car’, and they take me where I want to go and I don’t hand any money or credit cards to the driver it automatically charges me and i automatically rate the driver on how good he did or not… …some says ‘NFC is contextual’ but I’m not getting that… …if someone comes and says to me this is the killer user case that will add something to the phone (but) even being at TechCrunch Disrupt this week where I interviewed 40 companies I didn’t have anyne come up to me and say ‘hey you got to get NFC for this use case’ it’s just a technology, is it needed? …I don’t think even Apple will ever endorse it because it doesn’t have a use case that you can’t do in other ways until someone tells me something other than you can touch a phone together?

Of course he gets met with the all too often used:

Look at Japan!

Well if you go to Japan and walk in the aisles of a store you see people looking at their phones because their phone is telling them what is there and how much it costs

In my opinion this has been created because the markets are radically different in so much as telco’s in Japan reinvented themselves years ago – so much so that they were actually turning off their 2G networks when Apple launched the original 2G only iPhone. The opportunity right now is very different. Smartphones are packing 8Mpixel cameras and quadcore CPU’s for a start.

Today it’s easier to say here’s a camera phone app. and put it on a smartphone than include some extra feature in the BOM. Not got a smartphone? Then look to emerging markets where M-Pesa’s already significantly bigger than PayPal (and has never needed NFC).

Of course it makes sense for transit systems

This assumed thinking is flawed but seems to be based on what outsiders observe to be big success stories. Those in the know realise projects like London’s Oyster system have only happened because of the completely uncompetitive and uncontestable markets that they’ve been implemented within. If you know the insider story you realise why it’s not going to work when it comes to consumers with choice and differing brand affinities.

The extra potential for connected smartphones to be terminals rather than just tokens is also limited eg. my Oyster card won’t tell me to take a different route whereas my American Airlines Passbook app will give me directions to a changed time/departure gate etc.

What about PhotoKiosk’s where you got to make sure you pair with the right machine and they’re all identical/next to each other?

I’ve heard about these being used to Bluetooth connect mobiles and kiosks and it’s one of the daftest uses of mobile tech I’ve ever heard of. If you have a Android device with Bluetooth and NFC wouldn’t it be better just using WiFi?

Why not just number the WiFi or Bluetooth names and the individuals Kiosks (eg. so the customer can just send their prints to the machine they’re sat in front of)?

My thoughts:

Obviously I’ve been saying this for a few years now but it’s great to hear people who use and understand mobile technology like Robert Scoble (and ME’s Tim Green) coming out to call it the emperors new again clothes.

I think mHealth developers would do better by giving this tech a wide berth as it’s going to turn into a blood bath as big payment firms and telcos trade blows as they struggle to compete in the face of more rapid consumer tech evolution.

Customers now have a new always connected wireless READER in their pockets. Anything unconnected is legacy and anything in the future is going to be communicating in much more sophisticated ways (think sounds/flashes + Shazam, Apple PassBook, FaceUnlock authentication via the front facing HD camera, etc).

Am I Wrong?

What’s the NFC use case that I just got to see to believe?

About David Doherty
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1 Response to Is there a mHealth use case for NFC?

  1. Pingback: Samsung sponsors Royal College of Arts to Design a Mobile Phone for the Elderly « mHealth Insight: the blog of 3G Doctor

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