Google Android 2.3 NFC Scans Portland Businesses

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-12-13

Google Android 2.3 NFC Scans Portland Businesses

Google has begun distributing special stickers with near field communications (NFC) technology to let business owners in Portland, Ore., tout their wares right from their doors. 

NFC is a short-range wireless technology that lets devices communicate from within a few inches of each other. Users can take a smartphone equipped with an NFC chip and sensors and touch their handsets to a contact terminal, poster or stickers equipped with NFC sensors to make a purchase or retrieve more information about a product or service.

Google envisioned such mobile application scenarios when it baked NFC capabilities into Android 2.3, which powers the new Samsung Nexus S smartphone.

This handset, which also includes a special NFC chip and software stack from NFC provider NXP Semiconductors, is rolling out Dec. 16 from T-Mobile and Best Buy in the United States.

NFC in a device is useless without external NFC sensors with which to talk. Google is testing this technology in the Recommended on Google window sticker, part of the Google Places marketing kits it is distributing to Portland businesses.

Google envisions consumers will stroll from store to store in Portland, touch their Nexus S or some other NFC-powered Android phone in the future, and find out more about what's inside. This can save customers time because they don't have to pop in if they don't think there will be something inside they like.

This effort also made more clear Google's plans for Hotpot, the local recommendation engine Google unveiled last month that aggregates ratings and reviews about restaurants and other establishments from Android smartphones.

Google is launching a Hotpot Jackpot competition to encourage Portland inhabitants to rate the places they know and share them with friends and family, said Bernardo Hernandez, Google's director of emerging marketing.

Google christened the effort at a Portland Trail Blazers basketball game Dec. 9, offering prizes for attendees who posted ratings and reviews about Portland businesses to Hotpot.

Google Has NXP to Thank for NFC


Jeff Miles, director for mobile transactions at NXP, who spoke with eWEEK last month before Google unveiled the Nexus S with NXP's technology, said Google CEO Eric Schmidt's revelation of NFC on the Nexus S Nov. 15 will help the NFC market take off.

Miles envisions NXP's chips and software will run in the lion's share of 50 million NFC-enabled smartphones launching next year. Over time, he expects NFC-enabled devices such as the Nexus S and other portable gadgets will replace credit cards, debit cards, passports, transit tickets, security cards and even door keys.

Miles told Near Field Communications World that the Nexus S will soon be ready to support mobile payment applications, thanks to the open-source software stack and chip it provided Google.

However, Gingerbread currently allows mobile phones with NFC chips to work as readers, but not as transmitters, a necessary component to any NFC-enabled mobile payments system, according to ReadWriteWeb.

Google needs to update its Android 2.3 OS and software development kit to support NXP's chip and software stack and enable mobile payments. Developers then need to write apps to take advantage of the NFC capabilities for the Android platform.

"The smartphone is not only what's driving it, but what's going to make it successful," Miles said. "There's so much smartphones can do with NFC."

Google may have thrust NFC and the relatively low-key purveyor NXP into the limelight with its recent news, but it's hardly the only player looking to leverage the technology in mobile devices and apps.

Apple is working on NFC technologies for its iOS devices, and Research In Motion is actively recruiting for this endeavor. RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie confirmed RIM was eyeing NFC last month. 

There is also Isis, the NFC venture sponsored by Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. Google, Apple and Nokia have all voiced their support for Isis.


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