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NFC Could be the Next Driver in Social Networking
Posted: 19-Mar-2011 [Source: Mobile Tech News]

[Japan's leading social networking site Mixi along with a site from German researchers, NFriendConnector, are using NFC technology in some innovative ways--and they don't involve the mobile wallet.]

By Jean Whitinger -- What is NFC

NFC technology enables communication between electronic devices over a distance of around 20 centimeters. For the two devices to communicate one must have an NFC reader/writer and one must have an NFC tag. The tag can be read by the reader as it is basically an integrated circuit containing data. NFC technology then allows people to establish ad hoc connections appropriate to their needs.

If you're talking a few kilobytes of information, NFC can transmit the data itself during the brief period the two NFC-enabled devices are in close proximity to each other. If larger amounts of data are to be transferred, NFC then serves as an easy wireless connection point to Bluetooth or WiFi. An example would be printing photos from your phone. Once the photos are selected, the NFC-enabled device would be touched against the NFC-enabled printer establishing a Bluetooth connection and the photos would be transmitted for printing.

NFC's Move Into Social Networking

Last year Japan's biggest social networking site, Mixi added two functions using NFC. One is called Mixi Real Check In. Using an NFC-enabled Android handset, this app allows the user to "check in" by tapping their phone on an NFC tag to share in real-time their current location with people on the user's Mixi friends list. Tags can carry all sorts of information such as a URL, address, phone number, product information, etc.

The second app, Mixi Real Check allows users to share information in an NFC tag about the object. For example, a user could touch a poster or book with an NFC tag and information embedded in the tag would transfer to the Mixi site again in real-time.

The downside to these NFC functions is the only handset that can make use of this functionality is the Nexus S running the Taglet app for Android installed on the handset.

Another site offering NFC social networking opportunities is NfriendConnector.net. This application allows NFC-enabled phones to interact with Facebook. The idea was developed at the Technical University in Munich by researchers Philip Koene, Felix Koebler, Prof. Dr. Jan Marco Leimeister and Prof. Dr. Helmut Kromar.

Nfriend Connector, using an NFC-enabled mobile device, can establish Facebook connections between users and access other Facebook functionalities. An NFC-enabled mobile phone running the NfriendConnector application touching another NFC-enabled mobile phone running the same application will automatically initiate a Facebook profile data transfer. This exchanged data is then displayed on each participating phone and can be saved to be viewed later on the phone. The Facebook profile mobile access feature allows the quick use of the Facebook platform function “add as a friend” in a real social setting. NfriendConnector also allows users to receive automated status messages that can be sent through the Facebook status message form.

Since the user has full control over the exchange of information that happens with other users, the NFriendConnector overcomes the privacy concerns that are associated with other mobile social networking applications. The app was initially developed using the Nokia NFC-enabled phone and a new version for the Google Nexus S is in development. They hope to have the application available in the Android marketplace in the next few months.

Although the major focus of NFC technology over the past few years has been in the area of mobile payments, it is likely that social networking opportunities using NFC may be an important driver boosting the uptake of this technology in the marketplace.

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