Consumers around the world could generate as much as $50 billion in sales through NFC-based mobile payments by 2014, according to a report released yesterday by Juniper Research.
NFC, or near-field communication, lets consumers pay for goods and services on the go through their mobile phones simply by touching or passing them over another NFC-equipped device such as a register or terminal. The funds themselves are transferred from the user's credit card account stored through the mobile phone.
A variety of industry players have kicked off their own efforts to tap into the potential of NFC.
Google recently announced its own mobile payments service called Google Wallet that would let owners of NFC-enabled Android smartphones pay for items from participating merchants. Financial companies, such as Visa and Intuit, have also jumped onto the NFC bandwagon as have mobile carriers, such as Sprint, AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile.
Juniper sees 2011 and 2012 as "banner years" for NFC deployments. As more industry players start to roll out the necessary devices and technologies, the research firm believes consumers will gravitate to NFC not just to make mobile payments but also to download coupons, promotional offers, and product information. That capability will offer not just convenience to the customer but also greater sales potential to the retailers, notes Juniper.
"Based on our analysis and interviews with key industry players our view is that the next 18 months will see [NFC] launches in up to 20 countries," Juniper senior analyst David Snow, said in a statement. "As a result, Juniper is forecasting that North America and Western Europe together will exceed the Far East region in under three years based on transaction value."
Of course, like any new technology, NFC still faces some potential hurdles. Before consumers jump into the world of mobile payments, they'll need to be assured that the technology is safe and secure.
A recent poll by MasterCard found that 63 percent of consumers 18 to 34 years old would be comfortable using their mobile phones to make payments. But only 37 percent of those 35 and older expressed the same comfort level. Among all of those surveyed, almost 62 percent said they would have to be sure their personal information would be safe before they would buy something via their phones.
In the Juniper video below, Juniper analyst Howard Wilcox shares his thoughts on NFC.