When Google announced their move away from QR codes for Google Places, I was asked if mobile tagging is dead. Yesterday’s details on Google Wallet are causing more kerfuffle, confusion & curiosity about the upcoming standard for hardlinking the mobile web to RL.
When I presented Voir QR, I spent some time on the mobile hardware technology & marketing possibilities involved in NFC (RFID). It differs from mobile tagging in many regards, and I think the two will coexist, at least for the next few years. Why?
- NFC hardware (phones & RFID-equipped merchants) is very limited
- Mobile tags are available to everybody, right now, free
Though they’ve said they’ll work with all platforms, imo Google’s foray into Walletization sure helps solidify the indispensability of Android. If iPhone isn’t there yet, Android has the chance to gain marketshare as the phone ‘that can do mobile payments’.
Summary of the two hardlinkers:
Mobile tags are: free/cheap, fast, low tech, flexible, printable on anything, buildable out of anything, can do a lot (even payments, if you wanna get into it).
NFC is: hardware-dependant, expensive at this point, going to be great for paying for stuff. Will eventually get used for the stuff QR is used for, except in vigilante/street art/low tech situations. Same reason we keep cash money around even though there’s Interac.
The breakdown (don’t kill me if I get something wrong. I’m not a phone manufacturer):
|Near Field Communications (NFC)||Mobile Tagging (QR, Microsoft Tag, etc)|
|Technology||Radio frequency (RFID)||Machine-readable (CCD) code|
|Hardware requirements||NFC-equipped mobile phone or card; or, failing that, an ancillary sticker or phone case with RFID capabilities||Scanning software, mobile phone|
|Cost to deploy||30¢/tag (& falling)||$0.05/tag|
|Number of users||3.5 million US, 100 million worldwide (& growing)||5 billion+ (Microsoft tag) (& growing), a zillion % growth in QR codes|
|Advocates||Mastercard, Google||Sparkcode, QRArts, open source folks|
|Capabilities||Short-range wireless reader/writer, P2P info exchange, card emulation||Long range phone application activation|
|Uses||Unlocking doors, paying for goods, launching phone calls or exchanging data (including payments) between users, government ID, plus all the marketing stuff mobile tags can do||Open a website, dial a phone number, read an
RSS feed, send a text msg or email, schedule
a calendar event, retrieve location data to
help you get somewhere, share a contact card,
download audio, and/or launch any app on your phone
|Design considerations||Physical chip must be embedded in substrate||Can be handmade, constructed out of waffles, spraypainted on a bridge, cheaply printed in 1 colour on any surface|
|Distance||20 cm / 7.87 inches—that’s why they call it “near”||As far as a scanner can visuallyresolve; no maximum size; 0.5” minimum, 1” larger for every foot distance you expect user to be (ie, billboards scanned from street)|
|Security||Subject to eavesdropping (data modification, relay attack)||Subject to rogue threats from accessing unknown, shortened URLs, including unauthorized address book access, theft of written notes , passwords and bank account details|
|Stuff you need to feel safe transmitting||Debit & credit card information, loyalty program data, PINs and networking contacts||Passwords, contact information|
|Official governance||ISO certified, NFC Forum, GSMA (Global System for Mobile Communications Association)||ISO certified|
|Data capacity||96 -512 bytes||2953 bytes|
|Coolness||Super futuristic device-waving door activation||Arcane gnosis|
Paying for stuff by waving your phone at is certainly on the horizon, because Mastercard determined people spend around 28-42% more when mentally divorced from their actual money. I don’t know what could be a more compelling technological driver than 42% increased profits for credit card companies, so this is definitely happening.
Canadians were quick to embrace Interac, and many of us (including me, all men, and women who hate carrying men’s wallets in their purses for them) will be more than happy to ditch the bulky pocketbook & use the phone we already babysit constantly for payments.
I’m already designeing a toilet-proof iPhone case to prevent those inevitable watery wallet mishaps.