Is 2011 the year of NFC and contactless payments?
Near-Field Communications (NFC) will revolutionise the routines of shopping in the same way as CHIP and PIN has changed our spending habits. In the future, our mobiles will carry electronic bank balances or travel passes, and a transmitter will allow us to pay for goods or pass through train barriers with a wave of the handset.
When will this future arrive? Probably this year. Apple have been rumoured to be considering NFC for the next version of the iPhone, and it's possible the technology (if not the phone) will be revealed at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June. However it's likely to be Google that will pip them to the post, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Google is thought to be working with MasterCard and US bank Citigroup to embed NFC technology in Android-powered mobiles, to let customers make contactless payments in-store. Google wouldn't necessarily take a cut of the cash - they're more interested in the technology allowing them to learn about consumer spending habits and delivering targetted ads and offers. Yes, you'd be inadvertently handing over even more personal data to Google.
The technology isn't necessarily new and in fact it already exists - Android software already has the capability to manage NFC, and many of turnstyles used in UK train stations have the receiving technology built in, but dormant while the consumer hardware catches up.
But while NFC may make its mainstream debut this year, it's unlikely to kill off cash or cards anytime soon; as with the rise of airlines using electronic boarding passes failing to replace paper documents, unless everyone has a handset with NFC technology then it won't replace traditional cards and cash for many years to come.
Right then. If that's contactless payment on the way, it's about time for Google to spend a few quid on developing jetpacks, no?