Forgot your wallet? You´ll need a better excuse than that for passing on the check. By next year, you´ll be able to pay simply by swiping your cellphone a few inches from a cash register, with a new wireless standard called Near Field Communication. An NFC chip in your phone will send your credit-card number-stored on your phone or on the chip-by way of short-distance radio waves. An electronic reader at the checkout will decode the number and ring up your purchase.
Unlike radio-frequency identification (RFID) and other existing contactless payment systems, NFC chips allow two-way information exchange by rolling an RF transmitter and reader into one five-millimeter package. That means the chip can also take in data, such as a receipt zapped to it by a cash register or a bus schedule from a tag embedded in a bus-stop sign.
You don´t even have to buy a new phone. When it hits stores next spring, the miniSD-card-size adapter from SanDisk can add NFC to any smartphone with a Symbian operating system when it hits stores next spring. The first pay-by-phone option should roll out later this year, with more applications to follow.
For three things Near Field Communication can do for you, launch the photo gallery.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.