We believe NFC is the next big thing in digital comms, but some of the applications it'll be used for are hard to imagine. This makes the upcoming PIAS Nites music festival in Brussels all the more interesting, as attendees will be able to use it to make Facebook friends, play games, and a ton of other stuff.
Around 10,000 people at the event in Belgium will be guinea pigs in a very large-scale and focused trial of NFC technology that may not have been attempted before. The CEO of PIAS has remarked that "it's a revolutionary concept that opens up a wide range of possibilities in the world of music events." And though the technology may do much to promote the event itself, the bands performing there and even lead to increased attendance next year, the real interest in the festival's use of NFC is how it indicates that pretty much everything about how we use our mobile devices may be about to change.
How does it work? Festival-goers will get a unique RFID tag embedded in a special card as part of their admission package, and they can link the card's ID number to their Facebook account. At the event itself, the cards then become a digital "passport" to particular tricks, along with a back-end infrastructure of contactless card readers, computers and communications set up by NFC expert Getyoo.
The cards will let fans instantly send to Facebook "friends" they meet in real life, merely by holding their cards together as a pair over the reader consoles. People will be able to upload photos they've taken at the event to their Facebook profile using the consoles. There are NFC-related games, contests and specific digital media snippets that can be accessed using the NFC cards, and there's even an NFC-sensor-equipped photo booth where groups can get their pictures snapped and auto-uploaded to all their Facebook profiles.
It all sounds like a fun and clever way to boost the social angle of music festival going. But it's also a way to test out how NFC equipment could impact real life marketing, sales, store EPOS vending and digital media sharing—because while the test scenario this time involves special NFC cards, in the future much of the interactivity could be replicated using smartphones, either with or without the special NFC sensor consoles.
The Facebook friending trick at the event is a prototype for how we'll share contact information with our NFC smartphones, merely by holding the phones together. The NFC-login competitions at the event are a parallel to how we may use "wave and pay" systems to register our purchases in a store, and the specialized digital media sharing at the concerts is an example of how stores and service providers may download targeted adverts, coupons, loyalty card points and bonuses and even full-on apps to our portable devices in the future. And these are just the sorts of applications we can dream up now, before the tech is mainstream.
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