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Near field communications brings touch and transact

Written by  GV Kumar
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GV Kumar Issue: Europe I 2011
Article no.: 8
Topic: Near field communications brings touch and transact
Author: GV Kumar
Title: Founder and CEO
Organisation: XIUS
PDF size: 377KB

About author

Mr GV Kumar is the founder of XIUS and the CEO of XIUS-bcgi; he has nearly two decades of IT and telecommunications’ experience. Mr Kumar is credited with the conceptualisation and commercial development of a number of patent-pending wireless technologies and services in such emerging fields as intelligent networks, convergent solutions, mass subscriber customization, wireless roaming and wireless OSS. Prior to XIUS, Mr Kumar began his career with the Godrej Group of India, and last served as CEO of Godrej Telecom Ltd – the telecom arm of the Godrej Group. Mr Kumar graduated from the National Institute of Techonology, Bhopal, with a specialization in electrical engineering and received an MBA from XIMB.

 

Article abstract

Near field communications, NFC, is a short-range (about 10cm) wireless technology. It is available on some smartphones and used primarily to substitute cash and credit cards at points of sale (POS). Touch an NFC device to a point-of-sale terminal - a vending machine, a mobile poster, a subway turnstile, a mobile top-up sales point - and the transaction is closed. New contactless subscriber identification module (SIM) cards lowers the cost of NFC and makes it feasible for low-income users throughout the world.

 

Full Article

Mobile technology continues its march around the globe. It is changing lives by connecting families and friends through voice, text and email. New mobile handset-centric applications such as games, navigation and shopping are growing and such critical services as mobile banking and mobile healthcare are increasingly present in the lives of people around the world. High-end users are changing their handset as frequently as they change their wardrobes; the mobile phone has become an extension of who we are. However, the mobile user’s experience varies depending on the phone that they use - a hot smartphone or a basic handset. With the availability of higher bandwidth and smarter phones, new and more sophisticated content and applications are available to users. While both smartphones and basic mobile phones offer voice and SMS services, the divide between the sort of services available to the user widen, depending upon their handset, when it comes to value-added services such as ring tone, music, video, billing top-ups, and more. For basic handset users, as opposed to smartphone users, the service experience depends largely on the subscriber’s handset model, their familiarity and knowledge of that handset, and their ability to pay. Although smartphones with Web connections offer easy and intuitive one-touch access to the latest mobile apps and services, basic handset users must rely on USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) or SMS to receive services. With basic handsets, the experience can be complex or inconvenient at best and, at worst, disenfranchising, for poor or illiterate mobile subscribers. Luckily for subscribers, the burgeoning availability of the mobile phone has also sparked innovative service delivery improvements. By uniting near field communications with ‘touch and transact’ point-of-sale components, mobile network operators can deliver on the promise of true anytime, anywhere retail and mobile commerce access, serving a broad spectrum of mobile subscribers. NFC is taking great strides in changing the perception of mobile commerce from that of a value add for the high end-user to a basic service for all subscribers. Mobile touch transaction solutions offer retailers, banks and other businesses an opportunity to boost their revenues via NFC-based applications that offer anytime, anywhere electronic talk time recharge, bill payment, utility payment and other self-service value-added services for subscribers. Through the application of mobile touch and NFC technology, mobile operators, retailers and essential service providers can offer easy-to-use, cost-effective interfaces for all subscribers, regardless of handset preference. Network-agnostic mobile touch technology platforms work through touch points such as a ‘stick-on’ contactless-SIM, touch pads, in-car services and ‘mobile posters’ to provide anytime, anywhere value-added services. The mobile subscriber initiates any and all transactions by simply ‘touching’ their handset to network components such as readers, POS terminals or smart posters. The user does not have to dial- or SMS-in information, nor do they have to establish complicated connections such as GPRS. The simple and user-friendly transactions are completed in seconds, as opposed to magnetic stripe credit cards or scratch card transactions, which can take several minutes from start to finish. Mobile posters are a type of printed electronic technology - a paper-thin-self-service terminal device with a glass touch sensor. By including an NFC tag on the handset, basic phone and smartphone users alike can perform interactive transactions in real-time by simply tapping the mobile poster. Icon- or text-to-speech-based interactions provide users with a visually attractive and familiar means to collect information that is handset-independent and available in a language and layout the user will understand. The posters are visually appealing and can be tailored to specific consumers based on region, language and location. Mobile posters can enable as many as 18 retail touch points at any given customer-gathering point. Mobile poster transactions are likely to be particularly appealing to pre-paid subscribers who, until now, would have had to divulge personal information to store clerks in order to top-up their accounts. With mobile touch technology, top-up transactions are done via a mobile poster within the operator’s retail location. The subscriber simply interacts via the poster to specify top-up amounts, and all information is retrieved and stored via a back-end database. This ensures privacy by eliminating the need to divulge personal information – such as phone numbers – to a retail clerk. New services such as train ticket purchases, micro-purchases, mobile banking and a wide variety of other yet-to-be-defined services will be increasingly available in the near future. To appeal to the smartphone subscriber base, mobile operators can use mobile touch technology to provide low cost, self-service, ‘virtual mall’ posters in both populous and rural areas, introducing previously unavailable convenience. Convenient mobile poster touch-points offer high-end services such as mobile commerce, money transfer and mobile banking and also provide an opportunity for impulse purchases for items such as lottery tickets, bus/metro tickets and more. Additionally, with advanced display capabilities, barcodes for proof of purchase and redemption are securely sent to the user’s phone to complete the transaction end-to-end. The contactless SIM, on the other hand, is an application based on unique dual chip architecture with onboard cryptographic co-processors. These SIMs can work with millions of existing active handsets allowing customers to perform contact-less transactions for essential activities such as prepaid recharge or electronic bill payment, or for impulse purchasing such as booking movie tickets or transactions in cafes or music shops. Alternatively, subscribers without NFC phones can still benefit from the use of a stick-on contactless SIM card, which acts like a smart card and provides the same functionality as a smartphone with built-in NFC. Using this method, user authentication is done via touch pad. The user simply needs to punch in his/her authentication code, and transactions are completed upon authentication. Delivery of value-added mobile services is convenient to some and critical to many. But whether you consider your phone a fashion statement, or a critical link to the outside world, innovative application of technology in the areas of NFC/mobile touch technologies have the potential to deliver anytime/anywhere access to premium services for subscribers of every social and economic stratum. Touch and transact technology promises to simplify the process of obtaining information and purchasing goods - and reverse the trend towards increasing complexity of handset interactions. For subscribers, this means convenience, faster transactions and complete security. For retailers and operators, this technology opens up new revenue streams, customer ‘stickiness’ and operational efficiency. Best of all, this technology exists today and can be used with existing distribution and telephony networks to provide unique value-added services for subscribers the world over.

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