How RIM is building a connected future with NFC technology

NFC and the future of BlackBerry
By Zach Gilbert on 6 Jul 2012 01:30 pm EDT
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We all know that NFC is the future in mobile payments; heck your credit card or bank card may already have the technology built into it.

With NFC technology already in real world use, it isn’t too far of a stretch to believe that this tech will be making it’s way onto our next generation BlackBerrys and other mobile devices as well. In the third and final installment of the “CrackBerry goes to Waterloo” series, I’m going to take a look on just how RIM is planning to build a more connected future with BlackBerry and Near Field Communications technology.

To understand how RIM currently feels about  NFC, we need to see how they’ve implemented it into the BlackBerry 7 operating system currently, with your NFC enabled BlackBerry, you can do a few things like transferring photos and videos to another BlackBerry, adding a BBM contact, suggesting apps from App World and more all by just a touch.  If you haven’t tried it out, I suggest you do so. Also, RIM has built NFC into the all-new BlackBerry Stereo Gateway - a Bluetooth connected media hub that allows you to connect to your BlackBerry by just a tap. With the current implementation, it shouldn't be too hard to imagine just where things are headed in the connected future.

During my discussions with Geoff MacGillivray, Manager of Services Security, Payments & NFC at Research In Motion, I asked him where RIM was thinking of taking NFC technology. While Geoff couldn’t comment on all of RIM’s future plans for NFC implementations, he did discuss what could be and hinted at a possible future.

RIM’s NFC vision is almost as if they want your BlackBerry smartphone to be the key to your everyday life. Your BlackBerry with  NFC might be used to unlock your doors, connect to your car’s Bluetooth and control your home alarm system. You will also be able to make payments for everyday items like movie tickets and groceries, even check-in to that new bar down the road with foursquare using  NFC technology.

Since there are so many possibilities for NFC, why stop at payments and a simple foursquare check-in, why can’t our BlackBerry smartphones be used in conjunction with NFC to become our boarding pass for our next trip? The future is there, and RIM is pushing ahead by using both open NFC standards and closed high level secure standards for things like mobile payments and various other scenarios like unlocking a door.

By using open standards RIM is able to build a more connected ecosystem.  The reasoning behind this is because most manufactures will be able to build accessories (yes, a car could be an accessory to your BlackBerry) and have them work across almost all mobile platforms. Since manufactures will be able to enable their devices to work with more phones, we, as consumers, will have more options when it comes to working with a connected future; a true win-win if you ask me.

The future of NFC technology is certainly looking interesting. RIM is at the forefront of NFC by using open technologies, leading to the broadest range of NFC enabled devices.  The added fact that working with companies to ensure that BlackBerry and NFC are in their future plans is promising. I just can’t wait to have an NFC BlackBerry PlayBook and BlackBerry 10 device; a killer combination when it comes to the new mobile computing world upon which we are about to embark.

Reader comments

How RIM is building a connected future with NFC technology

45 Comments

I am so looking forward to utilizing the NFC capabilities on my new 9930. After recently learning that I can create my own NFC tags, I am stoked with the endless possibilities that are out there!

BB with NFC capabilities read NFC tags.
Or, if they have an app, will transmit NFC tags.

So, if you have say, payWave (Visa NFC payment) on your BB phone, then at those stores that offer payWave, you can pay using your BB.

I don't see an app called payWave in appworld. There are various vendors around that have the technology at the cash register, and I have the phone that will do it, but where do I find such an app?

Rockin' the 9900

That availability probably depends on geography. If your country's banks don't support payWave, you won't see it available in App World.

This is part of a typical RIM problem. I have had my 9900 with NFC for almost a year now. Paywave is not available in app world in canada it seems. So for the life of this phone I will have never had the chance to use it to pay.

Depends on what's being transferred. Typically, things like contacts (vCards) or URLs are standardized, so they can be sent as needed.

It's the application-specific ones that are tricky. The app developer needs to make sure they have an app on both platforms, and that the NFC tag details match.

Otherwise, Android tends to muck things up with its own proprietary implementation called Android Beam. There's nothing too special about it, it's just the way it populates the tags. BlackBerry can read them, but it doesn't know what to do with them.

Founder of Pulsecode Engineering and taab

Desktop Bridge for the BlackBerry Playbook
twitter: #DesktopBridge

Am I glad I picked the Curve 9360 over the Torch 9810 (at the time, it was an agonizing purchasing decision between the two). The Curve 9360 has NFC and it should extend the phone's usefulness and life for some time.

I have seen parking meters that are now using NFC technology. There are plans in my city to equip buses and public transit with NFC in the future.

I was under the impression NFC was available for all OS7 phones. So, you're saying it's device-specific?

I sat in on a session with HID for the sole purpose of learning more about NFC in conjunction with the access control industry I work in. I was hoping for a little bit more info on it, since HID will likely be the ones to first impliment this as far as access control goes, I was informed it's a technology that likely won't be taken advantage of until at least next year at the earliest.

It kinda sucks, I was hoping to mess around with my phone and an access control controller and maybe an iCLASS reader by HID but you'd still need the NFC keys on the device side which is still in beta (as I was lead to believe).

Working in this industry, one of the worst things is to deal with the end user and say "alright, these are your proximity credentials (fob, card, whatever)" and they just groan at the thought of keeping ANOTHER card with them. To consolidate this and allow it to be used on a smartphone is absolutely brilliant.

However, I believe there's currently a pissing match as far as the technology goes with licensing and whatnot. Like I said, HID is likely to be first to develop and actually produce a working product. It's the dealings with everyone else who wants a piece of their technology that's the issue (aside from the beta-ness of course).

I saw a demo by RIM/HID last year at BlackBerry innovation forum Johnnesburg on their NFC access control system. Almost a year later I contacted HID and was told the product was still in development. Was very very disappointed.

We're banking heavily on NFC being adopted. If you follow our tweets (@taab_co and @xitijpatel), you'll know that we've been working on our prototype app for BlackBerry 7, BlackBerry 10, and Android to use NFC to streamline the purchase process.

NFC-based payments are great, but we're taking it one step further. We're also going to make it easy for merchants to build their own apps to allow their customers to place orders and pay for them, all via their smartphone and NFC.

If you're going to be at BlackBerry Jam Montreal, you'll see us demo it on stage.

Founder of Pulsecode Engineering and taab

Desktop Bridge for the BlackBerry Playbook
twitter: #DesktopBridge

Placing orders and paying for them would be sweet. Even know I don't eat fast food. I can imagine people walking into mcdonalds, type there order into there phone. Tap it somewhere, walk down the counter and bam there's the food. Kindoff replacing thousands of young kids jobs but hey, that's progress

Is there a how-to section on how to use the NFC for the 9930? I live in a rural area but like to know what I can do as far as picture transfers and such.

Just turn on NFC on both devices. If you want to transfer a file (picture/music/video/etc) from one to the other, simply click "Send --> Tag", then put the two phones together.
They start pairing and the other phones sees an incoming Tag and asks you to accept the transfer. Simple.

I find NFC on my 9900 98.5% useless in the uk. Why? Mobile payment? By the time it's official, Blackberry 10 would be out, and 9900 will echo like 9700. There are no updates on what exactly is happening to the talks between telcos and banks. We wait and wait. It's far from happening. NFC tags on advertisements? Unless I am dreaming or being ignorant, I really hardly see any of these tags in UK.

And where is that 1%? It comes from using the NFC tags to perform different tasks on my 9900. It's fun, it's useful, but 1% because overtime, you find that physically touching the screen/keyboard to execute tasks is way faster.

The 0.5% can be attributed to the NFC transfers of data between my bbm friends. How often I use it? Well, about.... once a year.

So really, unless all these mobile payments and tags are widely used out there, try not to paint us the picture as if we can use these features in a month or 2. I think it's unfair for us users to live by the word "future" for so long - future of NFC in blackberry

That may be over there in the UK, but here in Canada Rogers Wireless and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) recently inked a deal to allow clients' BlackBerry devices to work with/as Visa cards. It required getting a special SIM and I believe also having a BlackBerry Bold 9900 (can't recall if it would work with any other BlackBerry device), but none the less it's one item.

I kinda agree with you in NFC not really being widely used just yet (with the exception of the example I already mentioned), I think that's the thing that almost everyone is saying about it, but I also think that the support has got to start somewhere. Your 9900 may not have much it can do with NFC right now, but perhaps next year there will be a few major retailers making use of NFC, or perhaps transit systems (if you take transit) will start to let people use their cell phone as a metro pass. Going with the idea of a key, perhaps major auto makers will offer a pad on which one could place their smart phone, and once the phone is on said pad, the NFC chip in the phone identifies to the car that the driver is inside and ready to drive, lighting up the "Push to Start" button on the dash.

The picture isn't being painted as useful in a month or two (though for some of us in certain parts of the world it's actually a month or two past). It's being painted as "this is where things can go if people take this idea and run with it".

I, for one, like where technology is headed. If I can carry just my cell phone and get rid of all the cards in my wallet (plus maybe a key or three) that would be great. Bring it on.

Perhaps RIM should work on getting NFC enabled on all carrier devices! My T-Mobile 9900 has it stripped out! They shouldn't even be allowing the carriers the option to strip it from the OS. RIM gives far too much control to the carriers and hopefully with BB10 they change

I'm concerned about the security of NFC. If making an in-store purchase, for example, does one still need to enter the debit/credit card PIN #?

Depending on the service and the way it operates, quite possibly.

Do you always need to enter your PIN when using a credit card? No, but there are some cards that either require it as a matter of course, or need it when making a payment/purchase over a set amount.

Instead of sleeping earlier this week, I was envisioning the NFC tech with some of the quotes RIM had talked about. I imagined the same QNX OS on the phone, car stereo and parking meter. A quick tap of the phone on the parking machine, a secure payment is made, and the parking machine transmits available parking spots. That info then goes to your car's fancy screen, and then shows a GPS location of available spots and how to get there. I'd like to think that would avoid parking nightmares for sports and other big lots! Seems like so many ways to utilize these technologies, I hope that's what RIM has up its sleeve! :)

Almost as good as that would be a notification immediately popping up on that "tap to pay" that the lot is actually full, then an offering of a list of other nearby parking lots. Even better than what you mentioned would be the ability to choose what parking spot you want, getting a route there (as you mentioned), and your fancy new QNX phone sending a message to the QNX parking machine to say that the spot was taken and would be unavailable.

Taking things even further, with QNX built into the cars, why not make the whole car NFC capable? Have a tendency to accidentally leave your keys in your bag and you accidentally throw it in the trunk? If there's an NFC chip on your keys (or it's your NFC enabled Blackberry) and the whole floor of the trunk is one big NFC receiver, the car could be programmed to not lock the trunk or not allow it to close (depending on the style of vehicle) until your keys or smartphone are retrieved.

Going back to that parking lot scenario, and the idea of the connected car (and assuming it'd still be possible to hot-wire a car then), if there's an NFC receiver in the ground underneath the parking spot you've chosen, an NFC transmitter underneath your car, and a wi-fi connection granted to your vehicle, picture this: Your vehicle leaves the parking garage, but you aren't in it. Normally you wouldn't discover anything until it's far too late and your car is long gone, but your car could now "tell" you that it's been stolen simply by sending a message to your phone to let you know it's left the parking spot but hasn't detected your phone. This could give you the chance you need to contact local authorities, alert them that your vehicle is being stolen as you run back to your parking spot (or run back to your spot, verify your car is stolen, then place the call), and you have a better chance of getting your car back sooner simply because police services can move in faster from different directions around the parking garage to stop your stolen vehicle.

Just some thoughts for what could be given your specific scenario.

I went to the movies on the 4th and of course had to sit through all the ads. Well, there was about a 3 minute long ad for maybe a Samsung phone showing off it's NFC file transfer abilities. Made it sound like they are the only ones around able to do this.
And as far as most of the general public knows, they are the only ones because RIM has ZERO advertising here in the US.!!! This is very frustrating!!!!!

Actually it's not negative. If you owned a business and a certain market turned its back on your product while a huge overseas audience is clamouring over it, would you spend your advertising dollars in the dead market? RIM is doing the right thing in this case.

On June 14th this is the reply that I received form T-Mobile when I asked about the status of NFC on the 9900. "We are currently talking with BlackBerry on a software update that will enable NFC. What do you plan on using NFC for on the BB?"

NFC is the future, RIM will be using it, other platforms will follow behind and likely dress it up like samsung did.

Saying it won't save rim? That isn't the only thing that will save rim. Stop with the FUCKING doom and gloom.

As I've been saying almost one year ago, it would be brilliant if Bold 9900's NFC would work with the Oyster wireless payment system for UK's Underground (subway train).

It would have been a brilliant marketing coup for RIM, to make it work Oyster for UK London Olympics 2012.

Alas, RIM sat back and did nothing...

RIM's competitors are aggressively rolling out NFC enabled devices now, with NFC uses surely to follow thereafter...

Developers reluctant to write NFC apps for BB7 devices (only Bold 9900 and one other device has it)...

With BB10 and its NFC platform delayed until 2013, RIM again threw away its lead, this time in NFC devices early lead...

At BlackBerry World this past May, I mentioned to the RIM folks who were hawking NFC that many carriers in the US have NFC disabled in their OS builds and, until that changes, BB NFC usage will not go anywhere in the US. They said they are aware of that issue and are working to change that. You would think that would be their first step. We'll see......