QR codes are losing to Near Field Communication (NFC)

QR CodesJust as some of the world realized what QR codes actually are, the shift is happening toward Near Field Communication (NFC) instead. That was quick. It was also necessary.

QR codes just haven’t taken off the way the industry envisioned. In an age of consumer empowerment, you don’t tell people what to use or embrace…they’ll tell you. They told us that QR codes were too clunky and had too many steps from ‘notice to value’.

Near Field Communication 

By embedding inexpensive chips, we can allow consumers (and workers) to simply tap and discover. In a recent Venture Beat story, Fusion92 VP of Innovation Jacob Beckley put it this way:

Both NFC and QR codes serve a similar function: They are a bridge between the physical and digital worlds. NFC codes create a digital bridge to physical collateral, and unlike calls to action that require consumers to type in a URL or scan a code to get redirected to an online message, with NFC, all the consumer has to do is touch their smartphone or mobile device to the collateral for an instantaneous connection.

NFC is simply put, easier to use, meaning it will be embraced much faster as it is made available. The holdout has been Apple, slow to adopt NFC. Maybe for once demand will push Apple in a new direction…but before we think so, consider Apple’s resistance to Flash and what that did for Adobe.

NFC explained

Near Field Communications NFCNFC is a standard set up to allow devices to exchange data based on proximity. One device needs to be powered but not the other end of the connection, meaning the ‘second half’ of the equation can be simply an RFID tag that sits indefinitely waiting to be queried.

Common uses for NFC include payment systems include:

  • Credit cards and mobile payment
  • Eticket systems like the Oyster Card in the UK
  • Loyalty programs providing differing offers and levels of service based customer level
  • Identity management

These outward-looking systems are a clear benefit to the consumer but there are as many opportunities in the workplace:

  • Security through identity management
  • Authorization and workflow exception management
  • Process kickoff and continuation
  • Property location and loss prevention
  • Timecarding (checking in or out of a job site)

We’ve had some of these capabilities for a while but they weren’t integrated with other systems to provide an ability to connect, understand, anticipate and act. When the silos come down, NFC offers a host of benefits that are part of our accelerating move toward the Internet of Things.

Virtual doorways

What NFC ends up being is a virtual doorway for many purposes. Enter a shop and tap the NFC tag near the door to pick up their wireless settings and see what’s happening in the moment. Enter your home and immediately switch to the appropriate settings just as you did when you got in your car.

NFC is a way to invisibly pass through electronic borders without changing platforms. There’s so much we can to make these doorways work at work, for our home and our customers. It’s a remarkable link between the virtual and the physical.


Tags: ,

Categories: Innovation, Internet of Things, Marketing, Mobility

Author:Jeanne Roué-Taylor

I'm fascinated by disruptive technology and its impact on our world. I manage sales operations for an excellent startup with a unique team of highly experienced data scientists.

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8 Comments on “QR codes are losing to Near Field Communication (NFC)”

  1. February 18, 2013 at 7:52 am #

    Jeanne, I’m a recent defector from iOS world to Android, and I really like the NFC capabilities. I can’t wait to see more and more retailers offering the capability for transactions of all types.

    A trend to watch, for sure, because I think we’ll continue to see things cannibalize other things regularly. I think the operating systems and apps will ultimately cannibalize much of what NFC does. Here is what I mean.

    I use NFC to configure my phone setting. I drop in on an NFC tag when I get to work and my phone configures to how I want it to work while at the office. Same for home, working out, going to bed, in the car, etc.

    Then I found applications like Tasker. They do all the same configuration, but they don’t have to take triggers from an NFC chip that is stationary (they can if you want, though). They, instead, trigger profiles (configuration settings) from things my phone already does to benefit me. For example, when it detects the wifi at the office, trigger the same configurations. Wifi at home, bluetooth in car, time of day for my “night-night” profile, etc.

    I think retailers will get smart and start giving consumers value (use my wifi, use this app to checkout fast or get great discounts) in turn for being able to make them offers (that create more value for the consumer).

    That’s just my take, though. I’d love to hear what the UK has going on in this space from Theo.

  2. paullabelle
    February 18, 2013 at 8:27 am #

    But isn’t Apple’s foot-dragging a major impediment? Hope someone from their side weighs in.

  3. February 18, 2013 at 11:46 pm #

    Android has 52% of total market share worldwide and apple has 15-18% and Blackberry has around 10%. Now I personally preferred NFC over QR code because I have experienced both the technology and for QR code you need to have one specific app to scan QR code and if QR code is visiting card then it took 15 seconds for me. but NFC requires only just a tap and no extra app required. Now anyone can also opt for NFC TagControl in Google Play it is very easy to use. With task launcher too I found some issues in learning at first. NFC has so much of innovative use. According to Apple Rumor iPhone 5s will be having NFC chip inside.
    NFC Tag

  4. February 28, 2013 at 3:34 am #

    If NFC offers undeniable advantages over QR Codes, such as being Active vs. Passive, faster (2.5 seconds average, vs. 7s) offering encryption capabilities for security, it also suffers from three major factors :

    1. Notoriety
    If 51% of US smartphone owners know about NFC, only 40% of them know about it, and 18% have used it (Source: “Smartphone Real World Interactors” study, Clear Channel & Posterscope, April 2012). As for QR codes, notoriety is at about 90%. Even after users know and understand NFC, the issue of trust remains? Will they trust NFC for payment?

    2. NFC compatible Smartphones
    For brands, retailers, public authorities, and the media to engage in the massive deployment of NFC, a prerequisite is the deployment of NFC compatible mobile phones. This barrier does not exist for QR Codes as all you need is an barcode scanner app.
    Fortunately for the NFC world, manufacturers (except Apple) and operators are playing the game and today 50% of all smartphones sold in France are NFC compatible, with 2,5 million NFC phones already sold.

    3. Ease of use
    It takes an NFC user an average of 2.5 seconds to retrieve content or transact with an NFC tag, versus 7 seconds for a QR Code. That’s if NFC is turned on! You get to an average of 10 to 15 seconds if you have to unlock the phone, go into settings and turn NFC on. As NFC is a battery killer, most people do not leave it on. So the value in terms of ease of use can be negative. I experienced this two days ago at the Mobile World Congress where I could either use an NFC badge to save me from showing my physical badge together with my ID card. In 100% of cases, people pulling out their ID card and showing their Physical badge went through the gate faster than me with my NFC badge, to the point where I stopped using it. Oh, well! So much for an nice (but costly initiative).

    In conclusion, QR Codes are far from dead and it will take quite some time for NFC to reach the level of notoriety and trust that QR Codes benefit from. The two technologies are bound to coexist for a while.

    When conceiving an app, I try to incorporate both technologies in order to let the user decide which one to use.

    • February 28, 2013 at 8:52 am #

      Laurent, thanks for your response. I agree that NFC still has some disadvantages, but at the same time, is the future. I can see a time coming, however, where NFC allows us to decide on our food at the store by the information on when it was picked, where, etc.



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