NFC Communication

30th August, 2014


NFC enabled hand-grips

Last year we considered the implications of Near Field Communication (NFC) in market and social research and how the burgeoning market may grow to present viable insight opportunities. At the time of our blog – November 2013 – there were no steadfast plans from Apple to embrace the technology, leaving many with understandable doubts about potential growth for the data transfer technology.

It is now August 2014 and as reports and rumours concerning the iPhone 6 continue to swirl, today emerged reports of an NFC enabled iPhone, complete with its own contactless payment system. Payment system aside, the potential inclusion of NFC in a standardised, commercial iPhone release will have a stratospheric effect on the usefulness of NFC to market researchers.

NFC is currently limited to Android and Windows devices. Whilst the combined market penetration of these two mobile operating systems (and their host devices) is roughly 83% (see 4D), many NFC market analysts believe that the inclusion of NFC in high revenue, westernised iPhone/Apple markets will prove the requisite shoving point for the technology to move into the mainstream, embraced by consumers and businesses alike.

There is potential in the platform for researchers, too. In a mobile marketplace with an estimated 6-7 billion devices and market capitalisation by the three major manufacturers/operating systems standing at over 95%, it surely remains a case of tapping into what is already there?

It is not always that easy. When QR codes were the flavour of the year, many predicted their easy to use, ubiquitous nature to propel them into the mainstream of data transactions – or at least, many more individuals would be able to utilise the technology to access the sites hidden in the barcode. Some trials succeeded, others failed; eventually users decided the technology was fiddly, time consuming and ultimately moved on.

The static nature of a QR code did not allow the platform any great favours. NFC has the added bonus of contactless payments, card emulation and two-way data transfer. Strategic NFC tags can be placed throughout a city to provide participants opportunity to upload location-aware research. Passive NFC tags can store information to pass onto participants at the arranged point, or scheduled time. Perhaps most importantly – and a massive technology bonus over the QR code – NFC can be used in an encrypted form, ensuring participant/researcher privacy throughout the length of a survey period.

Any researcher wishing to utilise either technology effectively should continue their research experience post scan. What happens when a participant or potential engagement candidate interacts with an NFC tag must remain consistent with the mobile experiences we have come to know, engage with and respect. The technology will continue to expand, just how useful it is to market research remains to be seen.

N.B: note the image of NFC enabled grips on the Tokyo Subway for contactless payment whilst in transit.