2011-08-19

Near Field Communications Hype

Occasionally people ask me what I think about NFC.  Or rather, whether the hype around NFC is warranted.  In the interest of not having to repeat myself I thought I'd just jot down a couple of thoughts on my blog.

For the most part I tend to be relatively immune to at least some types of hype.   This is not an attempt to seem clever or cool, but this is just the way I am.  And the reason for this is that I find it very hard to become excited about technologies that are outside our practical reach.

I'm excited about 3D printers because I know that I could afford buying one, or if I had the time, it is well within my abilities to build one.  I also know that some 3D printing technologies work amazingly well and that it is inevitable that prices will come down.
I am not at all excited about going to Mars -- because we are still very far away from knowing how to do that (despite what the popular science crowd would have you believe). That of course doesn't mean that I don't think we should aim for Mars -- I just fail to be excited about it as long as I don't see how we would get there. At most I might be excited about sub-problems that need to be solved, but the end goal is too far away for me to feel any excitement.

The hype around NFC never excited me.  In fact it annoyed me because there was too much talk and too little action.  Yes, there are NFC-enabled gadgets and the technology is now trivially available to manufacturers.  However, NFC-enabled devices are not widespread.   It is only when the vast majority of new phones coming to the market are NFC enabled that NFC will have the potential to make any impact whatsoever.

This means that the most important thing right now is not what we might be able to do with NFC.  Forget about that for now.  The most important thing right now is to get manufacturers to take the risk of including NFC in all mobile phones without any clear idea of what it is going to be used for.  This is a necessary leap of faith.  And it is not without risk.  But unless manufacturers are willing to make this leap, NFC has absolutely no future.

Once NFC availability crosses some hitherto unknown tipping point innovation, excitement, and explosive development will happen.  And we will have absolutely no way of saying where it may take us.  And I am absolutely positive that at that point I will be excited.

Just ship the damn devices already.

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