Near Field Communication (NFC) technology has been in the market for over 2 decades now. And while most of us may be unaware of the existence of this technology, the majority of mobile phones manufactured in the last 5 years come with it built in, making each smartphone a secure payment device. More on what NFC technology is and why it is a secure payment standard can be found in our article “Understanding NFC technology”.
NFC solutions can be loosely grouped together into 2 categories, business facing and consumer facing. In Sri Lanka, businesses in various industries have taken significant strides to integrate NFC technology into their processes to facilitate off-site data entry. Consumer-facing applications have been slower to catch on. But more recently, there have been impressive infrastructural improvements in Colombo to allow the technology to impact the day-to-day life of many consumers.
Touch travel pass was the first NFC payment system in Sri Lanka(P2)
As early as 2014, Sri Lanka’s first ever NFC enabled payment system was commercially launched to allow travellers to pay for their bus rides. But the growth of NFC in public transport since has been slow. And presently while approximately 11,000 buses, both government and private, are NFC enabled this service is only offered reliably under the Sahasara project in Kandy.
However, with the recent street-level facelift in Colombo, and the installation of 100 NFC enabled digital parking meters by the Municipal Council, these cards are set to become more popular.(1) These meters can be found along Galle Road from the Galadari roundabout to the Dehiwala flyover, and along R. A. De Mel Mawatha from Liberty junction to Dharmarama Road, Wellawatte. (2)
NFC-based solutions are also used by a few private car parks. And is becoming a competitive alternative to the other types of RFID cards currently utilized to keep track of the number of vehicles coming in and going out. By doing so these systems are able to to calculate the parking fees for each vehicle as well as the number of available parking spots.
Leading local banks have already started NFC enabled credit cards to enable a smoother checkout at supermarkets (P3)
Many of the leading banks have been digitized recently, and are now offering NFC enabled credit cards to their customers. This allows their card holders to simply touch their card at checkout to authorise a payment without swiping a magnetic strip, which can sometimes be hit and miss. The locations and establishments that do allow for NFC payments at this time are extremely limited. But with an expected increase in adoption of this technology by consumers looking to park their cars, it is a matter of time before businesses offer them the same convenience.
NFC technology has also entered both international and government schools to record attendance and provide a safe way for parents to give money to their children to pay for school services. The cards enable students to make digital payments only within the school premises -- from food and drinks to textbooks and stationery supplies -- all without the hassle of carrying cash.
With NFC the benefits of an integrated customer service is possible without the additional heavy infrastructure costs.(P4)
The NFC Potential
The potential of NFC technology to transform how consumers interact with the businesses that service them can be seen most notably in Southeast Asian countries like Singapore and Hong Kong. In these countries NFC technology has almost completely penetrated the transactions market, due to its inherent security, with many small businesses and all public transport services encouraging its use.
This technology can also be incorporated into companies as employee cards, to mark attendance, gain access to restricted areas, and record the use of services such as photocopy machines. One clever adoption of this technology by corporates in Sri Lanka is the dialog fuel card that uncomplicates the reimbursement procedure for employee fuel stipends.