Steve Owen from NXP Semiconductors tells us why NFC technology will play a key role in powering the Internet of Things
Today’s homes are increasingly connected. Everyday appliances like lights, ceiling fans and thermostats can now be controlled using Internet-based protocols and hardware. The Internet of Things (IoT) is redefining our at-home environment, and creating new ways to manage energy, increase comfort and enhance entertainment.
An important aspect in the transition to connected living is the role of Near Field Communication (NFC). The NFC industry is predicted to reach $16.25 billion by 2022 (ReporternReports), and is helping to revolutionise the way we use and view previously ‘inactive’ devices. NFC technology works by allowing a device, for example a smartphone, to read information from or write information to another device or machine. The potential applications for NFC are therefore endless and the benefits it will bring to our lives are vast.
Mobiles will be the remote control of our lives
Consumers are already able to control some household appliances and monitor household energy usage via mobile devices like smartphones or tablets. However soon technology like NFC will allow them to open car doors, order replacement parts and turn on their washing machine, all from their mobile devices. As this technology transforms society, we will see our tablets and smartphones become the ‘remote control for our lives’ – and we will become reliant on our phones for far more than keeping in touch with our family and friends. It will also be an enabler for the way we live at home, giving us the opportunity to turn the kettle on five minutes before we reach the front door, or turning the dish washer on at work, all through apps on our phones.
With the right app on board, an NFC-enabled smartphone can be used to control or configure just about anything. This could mean parental controls can easily be applied to a set-top box or TV, to ensure that children only watch suitable channels for a specified period of time. Likewise machines could be configured to contact their owners, send SMS messages or emails to remind owners to schedule a service, invite them to renew their warranties, or offer personalised recommendations and discounts.
Smarter appliances – what will the future look like?
Mobile phones will play an important role, but NFC will also add a level of intelligence to in-home appliances so they can do more for their owners. In the kitchen, for example, you could tap the package of a frozen dinner to the microwave, put it inside, and the oven does the rest, automatically knowing cooking times and using optimal settings to ensure the best results. Similarly, wine-storage cabinets can automatically download the perfect temperature settings for a particular collection of wines from smart tags on the bottle. An NFC-equipped appliance can also send a message to the manufacturer, to register the product and set its warranty date.
The benefits extend beyond making our lives at home easier, it will also enhance customer service experience. Repair technicians, for example, could use NFC to access the appliance’s repair manuals or order replacement parts onsite, with just a tap of their NFC-enabled smartphone or tablet. All the necessary data – model number, serial number, usage, status – can be accessed in an instant. Homeowners could have greater control over the maintenance process, too, by using NFC to troubleshoot a problem, reset the machine, or request a visit from a repair person who will arrive with the relevant spare parts already in hand. NFC could also give consumers one-tap access to the help desk, for immediate, personalised service.
Embedding NFC into our lives
NFC is so accessible because it allows consumers to use a familiar device like their phone to control everything. Organisations around the world are becoming increasingly aware of the simplicity of NFC and the benefits it provides. Subsequently this emerging technology is being adopted to enrich the consumer experience. As a result, we’re not far away from seeing NFC revolutionise homes and devices – driving an easier, more integrated and connected lifestyle for everyone. Over the next few years, we will begin to see this technology being embedded throughout the home.
Steve Owen is executive vice president at NXP Semiconductors
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