NFC Technology Gets The Thumbs Down As OZ Retailers Look To Implement

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Australian retailers who are being urged to implement near-field communications (NFC) in their stores may want to think twice about the technology after separate reports in Australia and China have cast doubts on the ability of the much-ballyhooed contact-free e-payments technology to make much headway in mass markets for quite some years.

In Australia, the Commonwealth Bank yesterday reported that its “Kaching” mobile banking service – already available on Apple’s iPhone – would be ported to Android devices in the next six weeks – but without NFC links because – according to the bank – Google had failed to offer “clarity” on its NFC implementation.

And in Shanghai, market research firm Gartner said that, while worldwide mobile payment transactions will be up 62 percent at US$171.5 billion in 2012, NFC transactions will remain low at least until 2015.

“NFC payment involves a change in user behavior and requires collaboration among stakeholders that includes banks, mobile carriers, card networks and merchants,” said analyst Sandy Shen. “It takes time for both to happen, so we don’t expect NFC payments to come into the mass market before 2015.”

She predicted NFC payments could begin to pick up from 2016.

Meanwhile in Sydney, CBA chief marketing officer Andy Lark told a media and analyst briefing the bank had decided to go ahead with the Android version of Kaching without the ability to use NFC chips, though Android phones using Kaching would be able to make peer-to-peer payments via mobile phone, e-mail and Facebook.

“Our challenge on Android frankly has been in waiting for NFC clarity from Google and we haven’t got it,” Lark said. “We are seeing customers love and use NFC on the iPhone platform, and Apple has done a really nice job of making that something we can do.

“But the diversity of the Android handsets and the lack of clarity from Google on NFC makes it very hard to activate some of the key capabilities of Kaching.”

– CommBank yesterday also unveiled a free file storage and sharing service for users of its NetBank online banking portal. Users can store up to 1000 files and folders in an “online virtual safety deposit box”. In fact the files and folders will be stored on servers in CommBank’s Sydney datacentres.

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