Another Thing NFC Could Change Forever: Product Warranties

Near-field wireless tech could reinvent not only your wallet, and how you shop–but also how you return defective products to the store under warranty.



Near-field wireless tech may soon reinvent your wallet and how you shop–and now also how you return defective products under warranty to the store. No more hunting for certificates in kitchen drawers.

One of the benefits of near-field communication’s wireless “tags,” quite apart from the way they’re used to stop shoplifting and change credit card tech, is that you can read data from a tiny chip contained in the label itself. An Indian company has realized that this is a perfect way to reinvent the whole archaic product warranty system–the one where you’re supposed to fill in a certificate in the store when you buy, say, a vacuum cleaner, then get it stamped, hang on to your purchase receipt, and keep the whole kaboodle somewhere safe (that bottom “junk” draw in the kitchen?) for a couple of years.

United Tecsta has designed and released a new type of NFC tag that’s intended to stay affixed to a product (presumably somewhere safe where it can’t be damaged, like inside its plastic shell) throughout its lifetime. A standard NFC device, which could even be a smartphone with the right software aboard, is tapped to the tag of bought goods and stores details of the purchase. This includes precise details of the dealer’s ID, date of purchase, and so on–which, along with pre-encoded data like the product’s unique ID number, manufacturing batch details and so on, is permanently burned into the NFC chip.

If something goes wrong, the consumer takes the product back to the store–without any need to go on a hunt for the warranty details–and the store simply reads the data from the NFC tag. Key details get automatically SMS’d to the manufacturer, who can instantly respond to say if the product is under warranty and if repairs are possible. The retailer benefits from fewer enraged customers and a sleeker customer service experience, the customer gets a much easier ride, and the manufacturer can use the system to track a recurring defect and even issue a product recall.

Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? Probably the only concern that could pop up is a privacy issue about sharing customer data with the manufacturer–but with some safeguards that should be easily skirted.

[Image: Flickr user JohnJack]


About the author

I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise.