NFC, IoT, IFTTT – WTF?

Posted by on Jun 17, 2013 in Omnichannel

Ryan wrote a great article yesterday on his thoughts about raising our acumen to focus on the bigger picture of what NFC means to the future of personalization (http://omnichannel.me/to-nfc-or-not-to-nfc-is-that-really-the-question/). He cited the future of interacting with the physical world with devices. As I speak with clients about CloudTags I often say that the Internet for the sake of the Internet is a dying idea. What’s possible with data connected through the Internet has much more potential for innovation beyond the confines of webpages, than within them. Taking this ability to use data on the Internet and extending it to other parts of our lives is where I believe most innovation and investment will happen in the near future.

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There are three acronyms working together that you need to know if you want to understand things that are already here today and that will only grow in use and popularity: NFC (Near Field Communication), IFTTT (If This Then That) and IoT (Internet of Things).

Practical examples of useful NFC-enabled devices are already here today. Sound Cloud allows you to have all of your music stored and accessible via the web, but now you can tap your NFC phone on Sony’s new portable speakers and automatically send your songs and playlists that can be played instantly – made possible by NFC data transfer. As Ryan pointed out, the importance does not lie in the use of NFC, but rather in the ability to interact with the physical world, using your data. This isn’t something you’ll see at futurist conference in Silicon Valley, it’s in your local Best Buy: http://tinyurl.com/BestbuySonyNFCspeakers

 

This idea that devices can have connectivity is called the Internet of Things (IoT). It simply means that appliances and objects can be connected to the Internet to offer reactions to data. Connecting your thermostat to the Internet lets your cooling system know whether it should plan to ramp up or down that day based on weather conditions. When your refrigerator breaks, the appliance can self diagnose the issue and order a replacement part for you via the Internet. Most appliances on the market now, can connect to the Internet and that’s why. The foundation is being laid to react to data. And the aspect that will bring the Internet of Things to life is something called IFTTT.

So if the NFC and IoT acronyms don’t impress you then maybe you’ll appreciate another far reaching one that is even newer and more versatile called IFTTT (“If This Then That”). You’re going to hear a lot more about this. Think of it as the easiest way to let data from any source initiate an action. For NFC, think “personalization” using my device to tell people, retailers, restaurants and objects who I am. For IFTTT, think, “now that they know who I am based on my data I’ve shared via NFC, what happens next?” IFTTT is the automated reaction that is programmed to occur.

Here’s an example: if you walk into a store and use NFC to tap and identify yourself, that retailer has the ability to automate what happens next, depending on what kind of customer you are. Let’s say you walk into Selfridges and tap your mobile phone upon entry via NFC. That tap announces who you are and starts a chain reaction of events, behind the scenes. This initiator is IFTTT. Based on your settings and the experience the retailer offers, you may automatically check in on Four Square and Facebook for a discount. Tapping a product that you find interesting with your NFC phone, could trigger an automatic post about that product to your Pinterest page . Again, NFC initiates, IFTTT causes what happens next.

To tie it all together, you can use Near Field Communication (NFC) to tap those Sony speakers and transfer your data. The fact that those speakers are connected to the Internet is called the Internet of Things (IoT) and if the speakers automatically then check you in on Facebook and post what music you’re listening to, it’s If This Then That (IFTTT) that made those actions happen automatically. This is today. So if you’re arguing over whether NFC is going to be in the next iPhone, maybe you should be reading up and thinking bigger. If you’re not paying attention, then maybe your house will start tweeting to keep you up to date on everything you’ve been missing: http://www.technologyreview.com/news/514941/home-tweet-home-a-house-with-its-own-voice-on-twitter/