These are eventful days for observers of the Near Field Communications contact-less payments industry.
According to a Bloomberg report, search engine Behemoth Google! is to trial the technology in San Francisco and New York City within the next four months. Google is reported to be buying thousands of NFC payment stations from VeriFone Systems to stage the trial.
Meanwhile, there are numerous reports that Apple will not include NFC ICs in its forthcoming iPhone 5 device, contrary to an earlier story that it would. One suggestion is that the original story was misreported anyway but, according to Mark Mason, the founder of app-building specialist Mubaloo, rumour has it that Apple made this move after becoming frustrated by the lack of a clear standard across the industry, and is apparently working on its own technology.
While this may be surprising to some, if you consider the way Apple does things its no surprise at all, ventures Mason. For one thing, the jury is still out on the issue of whether the NFC chips will be housed on the SIM or the device itself. Operators obviously want to keep control by keeping the NFC on the SIM, but smartphone manufacturers will inevitably put it on the phone itself as Google have done with their new Android smartphone, the Google Nexus S.
Mason believes that smartphones will end up having two NFC chips, and application developers will be able to choose which to use.
Recognising this, Apple has probably decided to stay out of the battle and add on some extra features of its own, judges Mason.
In any event, a reasonably bright future for NFC is foreseen by many analysts. Last Month Yankee Group reckoned the number of NFC-enabled phones could grow from just 834,000 in 2010 to 151mn in 2014, a CAGR of more than 300%. Similarly, the value of NFC-based transactions could rocket from US$27mn in 2010 to US$40bn in 2014.