Despite the usual industry hype over NFC (near field communication) at MWC this year, SAP's SVP of mobile solution management, Nick Brown, still believes the touch data technology is overhyped.
"I think NFC is interesting, but it's just one means to an end," Brown told Computing.
Computing, whose new, NFC-equipped BlackBerry Z10 wasn't compatible with the MWC conference's NFC-activated venue gateway system, asked Brown if he believed NFC is overhyped.
"I think it is," replied Brown. "If it comes, great. If it doesn't - there's still ways. Because you'll still need other ways to do things anyway. You can't just depend on all devices being NFC-enabled.
"If you look at things like the Starbucks app - they can do NFC, but they also have a way to let you pay just using your [membership] card. Flash it, and it shows you how much money you have left on it. That's all it does. And you can do that with Bluetooth. There's maybe less of a security risk in NFC, but maybe there's more? It's still hard to say."
Brown was quick to brand another up-and-coming trend - peer to peer data connections - in a similar way.
"People are getting excited now about peer to peer too, but I don't see a huge demand for it for customers in the enterprise," said brown. "Maybe for games it could be different, but in enterprise we don't see anything."
Brown wished to stress that SAP "definitely supports NFC - on-device, in a wallet."
"But it's a matter of where you're going to sell it, now," said Brown. "Canada's invested in an infrastructure. But in the US it would be really hard to introduce an NFC-based solution today because [coverage is] so spotty. Mass adoption has to come for us to get really excited about what it can do."
Brown remarked how uptake of NFC goes back to the same "cart before the horse kind of problem", and added that Apple left the technology out of the iPhone 5 for a good reason.
"Apple don't own the whole market," said Brown. "If you're Apple and you're trying to add as much functionality into your phone as possible, and you add NFC for some small percentage of your users who might have a small percentage of retailers or outlets who can actually use it - it just seems an unneccesary chip to have in your device."
Brown said the only way NFC will achieve ubiquity is if it becomes "cheap enough to add" to existing devices.
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