Urgent Matters

Near-field communications for retail is both exciting, scary

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The retail sector is leveraging near-field communications (NFC) to enable consumers to make purchases with their smartphones. I have one of these handy dandy gadgets now, and the prospect of using it to buy stuff both titillates and terrifies me.

It is a rare situation indeed when I can be counted among the early adopters of the latest technology breakthrough or social phenomenon. I suppose that's due in some measure to the fact that I come from comparatively humble roots. My folks both were blue collar, which meant that while there always was plenty of food on the table, the phrase "instant gratification" could not be found in our collective lexicon.

Nevertheless, I was at the very front of the line when the concept of the cashless society was borne. I almost never have cash in my wallet, and haven't for years, not because I don't possess any, but because I tend to spend it foolishly and impulsively. Not having it in my wallet makes that a lot harder to do. There's something about the simple act of having to whip out a credit or debit card that makes me think twice about the purchase. And when that happens, it gives me the time to recall one of my most trusted credos, which is to always base purchasing decisions on need rather than on want. The wallet then promptly returns to where it belongs — in my pocket — and my bank account is healthier for it.

For this reason I read with great interest — and some trepidation — an item in USA Today a couple of days ago about how the retail sector is leveraging near-field communications (NFC) to enable consumers to make purchases with their smartphones. (This happens to be a topic that contributing writer Merrill Douglas will be exploring in our March print edition.) I have one of these handy-dandy gadgets now, and the prospect of using it to buy stuff both titillates and terrifies me.

On the one hand, there are times when I don't want to carry my wallet for fear of losing it or having it stolen, such as when I go to the gym. Armed with an NFC-equipped smartphone, I could leave the wallet at home — no problem if I get pulled over, as I have memorized my driver's license number — because I could use the device to buy gas or pick up a gallon of milk if the need arose.

On the other hand, this ability could worsen significantly my already troubling Mountain Dew addiction. Do you have any idea just how many soda-pop machines there are out there?

What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.

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What's Urgent Matters?

Insights from Glenn Bischoff and Donny Jackson concerning the most important news, trends and issues.

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Glenn Bischoff

Glenn Bischoff is the editor-in-chief and publisher of Urgent Communications magazine. Over a 30-year journalism career, his publications have won several ASBPE awards for editorial excellence. He...

Donny Jackson

Donny Jackson is editor of Urgent Communications magazine. Before joining UC in 2002, he covered telecommunications for four years as a freelance writer and as news editor for Telephony magazine....
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