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NFC Headlines at SXSW


This year?s South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival in Austin, Texas includes live tech demos by Isis – the upcoming NFC mobile wallet service for AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, setting forth their future debut at points-of-sale in Austin and Salt Lake City this summer.

At the live demo, visitors can see the technology in action at a mock grocery store. The Isis-loaded devices can activate the store?s incentives and offers, add loyalty or club cards into the same app, and breeze through checkout by tapping onto a branded terminal. They will also be demonstrating the versatility of NFC, with its use at vending machines or even ?smart posters?. According to the Isis website, all transactions will need a PIN number to approve, and all account information will stay encrypted from counterfeiting. Users will even be able to remotely suspend the app altogether, if the phone is lost.

Isis is introducing itself into the market very steadily, but it will be difficult to calculate its success in the near future. The mobile tap-and-go concept is only ?new? to those whom never been outside of North America. NFC and RFID-enabled mobile devices have been in production for some time now, implemented especially in markets outside of the United States. While visiting Japan in 2006, I was able to quickly purchase drinks from compatible vending machines, or pay my subway fare at the station with a single tap from my rental phone. Isis is analyzed to become a joint service embraced by the Big Three, but will they be able to count on the collective hundreds of millions of subscribers between these carriers alone as a possible projection of success? Even Google Wallet had much promise, already offering many of the features that Isis will showcase at the festival, only to be shackled into exclusivity to Sprint?s Nexus S 4G.

?Isis-Ready? phones are advertised to arrive in Summer 2012, but will this service be available to those who already have NFC-enabled devices, most namely the Nokia N9, Samsung Galaxy SII, and Samsung Galaxy Nexus? Hopefully what Isis will ultimately do is push NFC implementation a bit further into the mainstream here in the US, instead of just being another opportunity to have customers upgrade to a new phone, and upgrade to a new plan with additional add-on services.