eftpos Payments Australia Limited's managing director Bruce Mansfield has said that the last thing the finance industry needs is another fruitless trial of near field communications (NFC) gear, and has revealed plans for an impartial NFC industry council comprised of banks, telcos and card providers.
NFC facilitates the transmission of data over a range of approximately 10cm. An NFC-enabled chip in a mobile phone can interact with a proximity card reader to make mobile payments.
Speaking to ZDNet Australia on Friday, Mansfield said that EFTPOS is planning to bring together as many industry stakeholders as it can to develop the best way to deploy near field communication technology in the Australian market by 2012, all the while panning the recent spate of lacklustre NFC trials.
"Rather than having a pilot, let's say to move forward and develop a business case and move along," he said, adding that the 2012 deadline was optimistic considering the amount of consultation required between industry stakeholders.
"It'll take a while, but I'm not worried about that to be honest. If we can come to market with a sustainable proposition some time in 2012, then that's great. We can do more pilots, but ... I think we're a bit piloted out to be honest," Mansfield said.
Mansfield said that while the council's final product would be a reference of NFC best practices for Australia, it wouldn't look to mandate its results in the form of an industry standard.
"We don't have a role to play in making an industry standard, but we'd produce a document for our partners to digest to determine the best way to deploy near field communications. We don't need to invent more standards," Mansfield said.
Despite EFTPOS' efforts to put a coherent NFC business model together, Mansfield said that the real take-up of the technology will depend on the release schedule of future NFC-enabled handsets.
"NFC is dependent on the handsets, despite what we think as stakeholders; a key requisite and determining factor of the ecosystem is what the handset manufacturers turn out in the next six months in NFC capability," he said.
Australia's current compliment of NFC-enabled handsets, however, checks in at just one with the Samsung Nexus S. The regiment of handsets is set to double in coming months, with the release of the MeeGo-powered, NFC-enabled Nokia N9. While rumours surrounding future NFC-enabled devices have emerged, no concrete plans for the Australian market have yet been officially aired. According to Mansfield, that's set to change.
"The indications we're hearing from the telcos is that we're going to see a greater range of devices in the next 12 months, into the double digits," he said.
Mansfield's NFC strategy falls into line with recent predictions made by analyst firm Datamonitor, which, in a recent report, said that a considered approach to NFC deployment, rather than a rushed technology trial, would work better in the long run.
"As with all new technology, there is a risk that issuers and others keen to enter the NFC market may be overzealous and launch products and services before they are fully thought through or well designed. The key to making a successful foray into NFC will be developing an economically sound business model that provides an adequate use case for consumers, merchants and issuers alike.
"Overeager programs that do not have a clear revenue model or provide a sound user experience are likely to fall quickly by the wayside, proving costly and acting as a setback to future market developments for issuers," Datamonitor said.
Datamonitor also believes that NFC usage in global markets would not reach maturity in 2011 or 2012.
"2011 and 2012 will undoubtedly prove to be critical years in the history of NFC, due to the first signs of an emergence of an NFC payments ecosystem, but the path to full market maturity and gaining both consumer and merchant acceptance will be long and difficult," Datamonitor said in its report.