Speaking at the Moby Forum, a Nokia spokesman has confirmed that every Nokia smartphone from 2011 will have near field comms built in--the tech that makes wireless credit card payments work. NFC technology permits extremely short-range wireless data transfers to take place, which makes things like contactless subway fares, concert tickets, merchandise, or the Visa-based contractless credit card system work. It's a move to keep relevant in the face of Apple's advances in contactless payment systems.
Nokia's VP for Markets, Anssi Vanjoki, wouldn't reveal much. The smartphones will support the Single Wire Protocol and MicroSD security and possibly a Nokia security unit too. Single Wire Protocol is a new standard that defines how near field comm technology in a cell phone integrates with the SIM card inside cellphones. This integration provides a basic level of user-ID security in any wireless interactions that occur.
Nokia may simply be responding to a 2008 call from the GSM Association that mobile phone makers build full NFC powers into phones from the middle of 2009--which, frankly, hasn't happened. But this doesn't detract from the boldness of this news. Until now the technology has been little exploited outside of these simple uses, but the fact that it's relatively secure, fast and can actually share a sizable chunk of data when you swipe one NFC device over another means it has almost limitless applications when connected to as sophisticated a device as a smartphone.
Meanwhile, Apple's been filing patent after patent for years relating to novel uses for NFC technology from smart concert tickets, to how intelligent shopping baskets would use the tech in stores, to reinventing the ATM with NFC identification via an iPhone. In fact so many Apple patents have been popping up with NFC in them somewhere that when the first teardowns of the iPhone 4 arrived, it was surprising not to see a telltale flat spiral wire NFC antenna anywhere in sight. In light of this Nokia news, Apple's now very likely to include NFC as a killer iPhone 5 feature.
What does this news mean for you? If you're a Nokia fan then you can expect some novel systems popping up (probably more in Europe than the U.S., given Nokia's history) that use NFC for payments in stores, vending machines and so on. The entire tech may in fact get a boost, and become more visible to the man in the street, simply thanks to the volume of devices Nokia sells. And we can also expect a number of high-profile lawsuits to hit, if Nokia--desperately trying to vamp-up its ailing smartphone business--infringes on anything Apple's patented.