Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dialing Jack in the phone

Sprint is giving 230 people in the San Francisco area cellphones equipped with near-field communications chips as part of a new service trial. Participants will be able to automatically buy tickets for the local mass transit system and pay for food at Jack in the Box fast food joints using NFC.

Users will be able to forget about subway tickets as long as they have their phone in their pocket. They will also be able to waive the phone in front of Jack in the Box smart ads in the subway station to get directions to the nearest outlet.

I suspect participants in the four-month trial will find it a fun novelty, but building a more interesting eco-system is the big issue. The people who use the latest cellphone features are not typically mass transit riders ordering fries at Jack in the Box.

Surely Sprint can learn a few things from these 230 users who will spread the word to others about NFC. But the road to making it interesting to use your phone in place of your debit/credit card is easy to see and hard to pave. Sprint must get a world of service providers to sign on to NFC pay-by-phone services, replace that world of magnetic stripe systems we all rely on these days and put up a bunch of smart ads, kiosks and services.

That’s going to be a lot more crucial than any trial and take a lot longer than four months.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I see huge privacy issues with this march towards one-device-for-everything. Twenty years ago I used to think the idea of a single card to replace all credit cards, IDs, passes, etc. would be a utopian technical accomplishment, but now my view is exactly the opposite. A lot of that is because of the current administration, but I started wising up when Simson Garfinkel's "Database Nation" was published.

Think of all the ways that your data shadow can be exploited and how marketers will salivate at the thought of getting their hands on everyone's purchasing/commuting/communicating habits, and ask yourself if you really trust Sprint (or anyone else) to 'maintain' these records...