Is that an NFC reader in your pocket?

Written by Steven Johnson
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Mail
  • Linkedin
Originally published
June 22 2017,

Apologies to Mae West and her famous (but cheeky) line “Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?” but it seems that with iOS 11, finally, Apple will be supporting NFC tags. Long-awaited by many this heralds the “fundamental change” which those in the NFC community have been desperate for.

Near Field Communication, to give its full and proper title, is defined as, “a set of communication protocols that enable two electronic devices, one of which is usually a portable device such as a smartphone, to establish communication by bringing them within 4 cm (1.6 in) of each other”. It’s a big step and for brands will open up a world of enormous possibilities to engage with customers using a previously untapped channel. Just think…

1. Labelling

For consumers keen to know the provenance of a food product, its nutritional value, or even whether it may contain allergens or certain ingredients, NFC will provide a route to quickly establish and understand these.

2. Packaging

With NFC packaging becomes “Smart Packaging”. Making it truly interactive will bring promotional packs to life, for example, allowing customers to enter a competition, take part in a prize draw, claim a discount, etc.


NFC-enabled tickets become part of an experience, rather than just a vehicle for admission. Rich content for sporting events, live theatre, music concerts, etc. can be accessed and enjoyed by employing the smartphone functionality, in tandem with the printed ticket.

4. Anti-counterfeiting

It’s said that counterfeits are costing Europe's fashion industry 10% of its sales and thousands of jobs. NFC tags embedded in clothing or labels can be used to quickly establish whether what you’re buying is actually the designer brand you’re paying for. Good for the consumer and good for the brand.

5. Direct mail

We love ink on paper, of course. But enabling that paper with NFC makes it multi-dimensional and may well signal the end of boring “junk mail”.

6. PoS 

In-store posters, shelf stickers, product bins, floor stands, etc. all have the ability to not just entice shoppers but track their preferences and provide more detailed  information on the merchandise on display.

7. Dedicated terminals

Shoppers or visitors can use dedicated terminals to “check-in” to a store or venue and, with the use of real-time data (for example, weather, stock levels, line-popularity) allow them to access tailored and personalised offers.

8. Loyalty cards

NFC makes for a smarter, modern-day alternative to old-school loyalty cards. Two-way exchange of information with personalised incentives and rewards that keep a customer coming back for more.

9. Out of home advertising (OOH)

At last, entertainment (or at least diversion) while waiting for a bus, train or loved one. Using NFC as a bridge to access a video or buy what is being advertised is fast, seamless and encourages impulse purchases. Perhaps even using NFC-enabled Apple Pay!

10. Events

Checking-in to an event is as simple as a “tap”.  That, coupled with the ability to download an exhibition guide, register for a seminar or view a speaker profile makes events childsplay with NFC.

And, that’s just ten for starters. NFC has a key role to play in marketing collateral, social media interaction (likes and messaging), app downloading without even factoring in the Internet of Things (IoT) and an ability to control smart devices around the home. We’re excited by the prospects and keen to see how well and quickly NFC catches on because, as Ms West also famously said, “an ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises.”

Related Articles