Google this week proved just how bullish it is on NFC (near field communications) technology, ending support for QR codes on Google Places and other products and joining the non-profit industry group NFC Forum, as a principal member.
Until last week, the 2D bar codes (pictured right) directed people to businesses' Google Places Pages. Some 100,000 businesses joined Google' "Favorite Places on Google" initiative, which lets business owners place a window sticker with a bar code on their storefronts.
Users on the street could take their Apple iPhone, Android phone or BlackBerry devices and scan QR-coded stickers for Google Places in local business windows to learn more about that shop.
The QR code surfaced shops' Place Pages, offering menus and reviews of stores on users' phones, as well as any coupons the stores offer to entice consumers to come in.
Businesses were able to secure QR codes through the Places Dashboard, but Mike Blumenthal noticed QR codes went missing and learned from the horse's mouth that they were indeed kaput.
A Google spokesperson confirmed for me: "Users will no longer find unique QR codes in their Places accounts. We're exploring new ways to enable customers to quickly and easily find information about local businesses from their mobile phones."
Thew "new ways" include NFC. Google is moving more aggressively into supporting NFC, the short-range wireless technology it's been testing since last year.
But Google doesn't just want people to scan sensor-laden posters and window stickers. That only goes so far.
One of the worst-kept secrets in the Valley is that Google is testing NFC-enabled mobile payments with MasterCard, Citigroup and VeriFone. As Gingerbread phones increasingly come to the fore, NFC will become a major new app instead of a novelty.
That's a big reason why Google March 32 joined the NFC Forum.
Of course, that Google would do this is a foregone conclusion. The ad potential is lucrative and Apple, RIM, Nokia and now even Amazon.com are said to be working on NFC platforms for payment and other perks.
It's the next mobile app platform frontier.