You might be using NFC on your smartphone much sooner than you think, if Google's actions are any indication.
Google has flirted with near-field communications tech in its various products, but is now going so far as to hire a senior manager to drive its mobile "wallet and offers" division. Meanwhile, China's version of Foursquare, Jeipang, is testing NFC check-in stickers.
Google recently placed an ad for an "EMEA head of commerce marketing" role--the ad popped up on LinkedIn and Google's own jobs site, but has since been taken out of public view. Among the roles for the position, Google specifically mentioned its "mobile wallet" and "offers" plans, which would leverage wireless wave-and-pay and location-based technology to let smartphone owners pay with their phones at checkouts while simultaneously collecting loyalty points or coupon special offers.
Whoever Google recruits to the role will also have to hire two marketing managers--and this is a further hint that Google is very keen to grow its mobile-wallet tech, and soon. They'll also report directly to Google's marketing director for the U.K. and Ireland, indicating this is a relatively high-level position, with short communication lines up Google's management tree.
Considering Google's Nexus smartphone has NFC tech built in, and Android OS increasingly supports interactive NFC data handling, the news is a direct confirmation that Google is taking NFC mobile wallets very seriously. Since more Android smartphones arrive on the market every day, and Google-powered phones are most numerous in the smartphone market, it looks more and more likely that NFC will be a part of our daily lives sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile in China, Jiepang, a local version of Foursquare, has been experimenting with NFC integration into its check-in business. At the Beijing Strawberry Music Festival last week, Jiepang handed out 1,000 NFC tags that let folks check in at the event merely by waving the tag over a reader, as well as at different venues on site. We covered a similar experiment in Belgium recently and Getyoo, which powered the systems, sent us a post-event coverage video to show music fans testing it out. The implications for Jiepang are slightly bigger, however, given the sheer size of the market in China.
Apparently the experiment was 100% successful--everyone who got a tag used it. That's possibly a testament to how simple the technology is, partly to its novelty too. But Jiepang is seeing it as a successful litmus into how the public will deal with NFC systems. Its CEO sees more mainstream implementations as at least a year off.
[Image: Flickr user akaalias]
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