At this past week’s MobileBeat 2011 Conference in San Francisco, PayPal demonstrated an Android widget that allows users to transfer funds phone-to-phone using NFC (Near Field Communication). NFC is a very-low power, very-short range radio frequency communications technology, most commonly associated with ‘touchless’ credit card payment systems like Visa’s PayWave, MasterCard’s PayPass, some transit pass systems, etc.
NFC is also the basis for the expected next wave in payment systems – paying with your mobile device. The major credit card companies and technology vendors like Google are all lining up behind NFC. In the next few years you’ll probably find yourself paying for purchases by waiving your NFC-enabled phone at the NFC reader next to the register. Google Wallet is one such application coming to enable mobile payments. Our phones are slowly eating every other gadget (GPS, still camera, video camera, etc.), why not our wallets too?
The widget demo’d by PayPal allows you to send or request funds from another user, simply by holding your phones in close proximity. You simply enter the amount to send or request, then hold your phone up to the other user’s phone and wait for the buzz. Then both user’s enter their PIN to complete the transaction. (So you don’t have to worry about someone draining your account if you lose your phone, they need your PIN too.)
The widget currently works only on the Nexus S, as this is the only NFC-enabled Android phone currently on the market. But more NFC-enabled phones are coming, and PayPal expects the widget to be available later this summer. Here’s a short video of the widget in use: