Orange to Go for NFC in Time for the Olympics?
Mobile technology has been on my mind a lot recently as I made the painful decision to get an i4 rather than wait a few months for the Nexus S to roll into town. One of my big concerns was that the latest iPhone due to be unveiled later this year will incorporate the same NFC (near field communication) available on Gingerbread 2.3 and i'll be left stranded in my contact-full world.
As if to make matters worse, news reaches me today that the UK wireless provider Orange (who I am now subscribed to) has unveiled plans to team up with the payments firm Barclaycard to make contactless payment available in a range of high street retailers including my favorite brunch destination in Pret a Manger. While NFC has been around for a while now, this is the first full-scale launch of the service in the UK (O2 trialled a similar system for Tube payments in 2009) and is anticipated to lead to all transactions to do with the London 2012 Olympic games. Transactions will be available with contactless payments through mobile devices.
When you think about the scale of that operation, it's actually quite frightening, aside from the huge technology infrastructure required to run the games themselves (read the BBC's take on the challenges facing London here. This means incorporating a huge array of travel authorities, ticket booking organizations, and payment firms such as PayPal to ensure that customers are not subjected to breaches in data security, false payments, and fraud.
While I may still live to regret my decision to get the i4, my feeling is that until the edges have been ironed out so that UK mobiles can emulate the systems in operation in Japan and Korea, there won't be an immediate migration away from the UK's cash and credit-card culture. Having said that, I personally can't wait until it's possible.