Need help in a store? NFC could let employees know

A new NFC service lets retailers employ wireless NFC device for more than payment.

Kevin Woodward

Talk about the wireless technology Near Field Communication has mainly centered on how mobile phones with embedded NFC chips could let consumers pay in stores by tapping their phones on specially equipped readers. But a start-up called Narian Technologies has visions of NFC-equipped handsets doing a whole lot more.

Narian has released software called Touch & Discover that would let merchants create other functions for their customers’ NFC phones. A retail store could place tags at strategic locations so customers could tap their NFC-enabled phones to ask for assistance or to wirelessly claim a coupon for a product, says Einar Rosenberg, Narian CEO.  Or a restaurant could embed NFC chips, or “tags” as Rosenberg calls them, on tables, which customers could tap with their phones when they need water, bread or napkins.

The service is aimed at small merchants, Rosenberg says.

“We designed it so the small guy can use our services and customize or create their own services or content,” says. Merchants can customize most elements within the program, including graphics and options, he says.

Merchants pay five cents per tap made within the application and buy the NFC tags from Narian. Rosenberg declined to say how much the tags cost. Narian deducts the five-cent fees from a $20 deposit participating merchants place with Narian once a month.

Touch & Discover is an Android program that only works with Google’s Nexus S phone at the moment because it is virtually the only NFC-equipped smartphone available, Rosenberg says. He is optimistic that more NFC handsets will be available soon. BlackBerry released the NFC-equipped Bold 9900 and 9930 phones this month, but NFC phones from other manufacturers have yet to be released in large volumes.


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