There are obvious uses for NFC beyond simply being used as a payment tool. For ticketing, it could be used to replace unsightly QR-codes, while redeeming coupons and promotional offers or receiving receipts could be completely digitised using the technology. For digital signage providers, NFC offers an easy way to link an advertisement to an immediately redeemable offer, an approach that has been trialled at Westfield in London, among other major shopping destinations, although it has yet to see wide-scale adoption across the UK, either as a complement to digital advertising or as a payment method.
Beacon technology has tended to go under the radar compared to NFC, despite having enjoyed the support of major phone manufacturers for longer and a swathe of interesting implementations: Pebble has added iBeacon functionality to its smartwatch so it can be used to locate an iPhone, while Starbucks pushes a notification to an Apple device when a customer is in one of its beacon-enabled coffee shops, prompting the viewer to access or download the app.
The technology is also considered to have a future in integrated home systems, allowing a mobile phone to be used as a controller of devices, whether that is managing heating levels or sending reminders that it is time to put the rubbish out. It has also been mooted as a replacement for conventional signage or audio guides in museums and areas where multiple language translation might be required.
Despite this, the app-based nature of beacons means that it requires a further level of opt-in than NFC, potentially making it unwieldy in the eyes of some consumers. This layer of confirmation is a necessary barrier to prevent the platform from appearing to be spamming users, yet it nonetheless adds an extra complication in busy retail locations, where consumers demand simplicity and ease of use.
That said, the projected figures for both interaction platforms remain buoyant. According to research firm IHS Technology, global shipments of NFC-enabled phones will reach 1.2 billion units by 2018, raising NFC penetration to 64 percent. ABI, meanwhile, predicts that Beacon technology will form a 60 million-unit market by 2019, driven by the anticipated rise in interconnected technology, commonly referred to by the vile moniker Internet of Things.