Future BlackBerry Devices To Sport NFC Technology

Near Field Communication will be made available in most upcoming BlackBerry smartphones and tablets

‘Virtually all’ future BlackBerry devices will have built-in Near Field Communications (NFC) technology, in response to the growing demand for mobile payments.

According to Stephen Bates, managing director of Research In Motion (RIM) in the UK, the NFC capability will be enabled in “virtually all” of its upcoming mobile products, including tablets.

“The opportunities are endless,” Bates said at a Westminster eForum on smartphones, tablets and apps, adding that NFC “creates new businesses, new markets and new revenue streams”.

“We don’t know how it’s going to pan out, but we’re in the process of building an ecosystem,” he said. However, the company has yet to confirm the official rollout date of its NFC-enabled devices.

NFC refers to a short-range high frequency wireless communication technology. It is used in payment systems such as London Transport’s Oyster card.

Growing NFC adoption

Last year, market research firm iSuppli predicted that NFC adoption will expand throughout 2011. Its report suggested that 13 percent of the 220.1 million handsets expected to be sold in 2014 will come with mobile payments capability.

“This is the mobile payment revolution on the verge of being unleashed by NFC technology,” said Jagdish Rebello, communications and consumer electronics analyst at iSuppli. He also suggested that 2012 would be the turning point for the technology, citing “a critical mass of planned trials”.

Prior to RIM’s announcement on Tuesday, there had been speculations surrounding Apple’s forthcoming iPad 2 and iPhone 5 supporting wireless mobile payments.

Google has already confirmed that many devices running the Android 2.3 operating system will have NFC capability, including Samsung’s Nexus S. The application allows users to pay for products and services simply by touching the phone – which is equipped with an embedded chip – to a point-of-sale terminal in a store.

NFC security issues

Meanwhile, there are concerns over security issues, as NFC-enabled devices function in a similar way to a virtual wallet, and do not require the user to enter a PIN number.

However, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt argued the technology is extremely secure, as it deploys a higher level of authentication and identity than a traditional magnetic stripe on a credit card.

“They [credit card companies] have a big interest in building out that infrastructure just to deal with their fraud loss rates,” said Schmidt.

Recently, Everything Everywhere has announced its plans to roll out a mobile payments service, which will be provided by Barclaycard. Initially, users will be able to purchase items worth up to £15. O2 is also working on a similar offering.

At present, there are 11.6 million contactless credit and debit cards in circulation, with 42,500 live Barclaycard contactless terminals in retail outlets including Pret a Manger, EAT and Little Chef.