Near-Field Communication Making Smartphones Smarter

By | Jun 20, 2012

Samsung Electronics introduced the forthcoming Samsung Galaxy S III, a Near-Field Communications (NFC) enabled smartphone, and programmable stickers called TecTiles. Touching the smartphone to the sticker causes the phone to act in a programmed way without the need to manually press buttons.

According to an article in USA Today, companies like Samsung and Sony appear to be pushing non-transactional NFC applications first, likely because they are less complex to implement and because they have the potential for wide adoption by users who want a more streamlined way to use their phones. Samsung's programmable stickers, for example, can be programmed to send a text message, dial a phone number, or launch an app without the need to manually press buttons. A user only needs to tap the sticker with the new Galaxy S III, or other compatible phone that runs the Ice Cream Sandwich platform.

NFC is an important and highly adaptable technology, one that businesses should be evaluating in terms of business needs, security, productivity, and efficiency perspectives. Midsize businesses in particular should be evaluating these types of new technologies because they tend to be game-changers, something that can turn a midsize business into a global powerhouse in a short time span. Evaluation of such new technology needs to be a team approach including input from IT, security, and marketing, because no singular perspective can adequately assess how the company can benefit from its adoption.

Business Needs

Samsung's TecTiles and Sony's competing smart tags offer the potential for a new customer or user experience, one that requires little or no coding. Think of how QR codes are used now, and how a smart tag or TecTile might be similarly used. To adopt something like TecTiles, though, or to implement some other NFC application, IT needs to have a way to capture data for analytics purposes in order to best understand how target user groups are engaging, and if the company is seeing any benefit from the technology.


As smartphones get smarter, NFC may pose a security risk to the enterprise. The Galaxy S III, for example, will also allow establishment of a Wi-Fi connection between two phones with a simple tap. This feature could mean a security issue in the workplace, as it could potentially allow for data file transfers to a phone or between phones. IT must be able to write policy governing the use of NFC-enabled phones and devices, and have a way to enforce policy. IT must understand what kind of security is built into NFC-enabled device itself and what level of enterprise management is available.

Productivity and Efficiency

On the surface, the ability to easily program a smart tag or TecTile is something that appears to lead to efficiency in the workplace. But how would midsize businesses really use the stickers or tags? If NFC is only used as a way to speed-dial someone in the company, it's a rather expensive venture. On the other hand, if the stickers were used to streamline launching apps or processes as part of an IT service management system, it could be worth the cost.

The only real way to know whether new Near-Field Communication systems or other technology advances will benefit the company is to take the time to evaluate them in the context of the needs of the enterprise. With companies like Samsung making NFC more accessible to the masses, it is important for midsize businesses to be ready and willing to adapt.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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