Discussions about uses for NFC need to move way beyond payments. According to Narian Technologies, near field communications technologies can be useful for all sorts of interesting mobile applications, and they're providing the platform to prove it.
The Miami, Fla.-based mobile app developer announced it launched a suite of mobile services that provides retailers of any size the ability to create a number of applications based on NFC.
“NFC is not just for payments, and it certainly isn’t just for the Wal-Marts of the world," said Narian CEO Einar Rosenberg in the announcement. Rosenberg said NFC technologies will let consumers interact directly with retailers, whether consumers shop at Target or a local retailer.
According to a company announcement, the new suite of applications enhances the shopping experience, and helps merchants drive in-store traffic, increase in-store transactions and reduce lost sales opportunities. Along with customer-facing applications, Narian is also introducing workflow management tools that help employers increase the efficiency of employees, the company said.
Applications being launched include Narian Line Controller, an app that lets consumers browse and shop without relinquishing their place in line, and Narian Service Supervisor which helps restaurants and retailers direct employees to customers in need of assistance. The company said its new suite offers more than 100 unique features and capabilities.
"Narian Technologies is unique in that it expands the possibilities of NFC," said Felix Marx, CEO of C-SAM, an Isis partner, in the announcement. Marx added that Narian is the first company to show how ground-breaking NFC can be.
In a demonstration of the new applications for Mobile Payments Today, Rosenberg said the company has been working on these applications for more than a decade and wanted to create something that was simple for mom-and-pop stores and not just big box retailers.
"(Retailers) can be up and running on the system in an hour," Rosenberg said. He added the tools require "zero programming" to be set up.
Rosenberg explained the company even set pricing to make the new tools attractive to any retailer regardless of size.
"We priced the service based on customer use starting at only five cents per use," Rosenberg said. He explained that helps small retailers because it only charges them when customers actually access the services. It also helps retailers avoid the potentially high cost of development and integration with back-end systems, he said.
Rosenberg said that even with the wide range of applications Narian is releasing, the system is meant to be a foundation for other developers.
"We believe Apple's success was the app store," Rosenberg said. "We're not going to come up with every scenario." He said it's important to let other developers come up with creative applications for the tools, so the suite was designed to be open and scalable with a high level of control for retailers
Rosenberg acknowledged that at this point creative uses for NFC may be outstripping consumers' access to NFC-enabled phones.
"We're only waiting for the phones. Everything else is ready," Rosenberg said.
But Rosenberg isn't worried about the number of NFC phones on the market at the moment. There are plenty of handsets equipped with NFC technologies due for release in the coming months, and Narian tools are ready for any NFC-enabled handset regardless of its operating system, he said.
Narian's tools will initially be released for Android phones, but the suite is designed to support other operating systems expected to use NFC in the future, including the BlackBerry OS, Windows Phone, Symbian and even Apple's iOS.
Rosenberg added that merchants need not wait for NFC-enabled phones to reach mass adoption.
"Even with just one percent of consumers having NFC phones, our system provides real value for merchants," Rosenberg told Mobile Payments Today.
In the end, Rosenberg said, NFC technologies are going to be about more than payments, coupons or mobile marketing, and merchants need the tools to exploit the technology.
"There's a lot more to NFC than just payments," Rosenberg said. "Companies that don't expand their conception of NFC will lose."