Video Log

Video Log

On April 6th, 2011 at 12:00PM, we interviewed Mark Robinton, who is an expert in Near Field Communication via Skype. We were at Georgetown University, and he was in the HID Global Office in Newton, Massachusetts.Mark Robinton is the manager of Software Engineering-Strategic Innovation(HID Global). In the interview, we talked about several questions around the Near Field Communication(NFC). He explained what the technology is, How NFC actually works. Moreover, in the interview, we discussed about the standards of NFC, its near future and NFCʼs potential risks and its solution.

Transcript: Mark Robinton- Manager, Software Engineering-Strategic Innovation (HID Global)

1. In layman’s terms, can you explain the technology? What other technologies does it interact with? How does it actually work?

NFC is a contactless technology, based on frequency of 13 MHz, 3 basic modes it operates in, contactless card (open a door, get on a train), Reader mode and peer-to-peer mode (two devices talking to each other) Able to emulate various technologies within those cards NFC is being designed to be interoperable between many implementers of the technology- based on the standards, so that tags and readers can all work together in one environment

2.  What are some of the technical challenges with it? Any standards issue?

There’s a standards committee- NFC forum- that puts together the specifications that the technology is based on. Technology uses ISO standards at a very low layer, but people build applications on top of that, so the real technical challenge is getting the higher level applications to talk to each other, so it’s like having a conversation between two people, but you’re speaking different languages.

3. Where do you see NFC in the next year, in the next 5 years?

The technology itself has been around almost 10 years, but it’s been dormant because no one has found a good use case for it. This has been the first year its been pushed here, it’s being built into several handset manufacturers. Google has already built it into their handset; RIM has announced they’ll be doing the same, as has Nokia. The current big push behind it is payment- visa and MasterCard want to enable you to pay for things with your phone. Currently there are contactless credit cards today where you can swipe your card in the air and they want you to be able to do this with your phone. Banks and big credit card companies are pushing this. In my opinion, payment is not going to be enough to make it interesting for the general public- it’s a concept known as “interesting but not compelling”. Who cares that you can pay for things with your phone? I can easily pull out my wallet, no problem, it will be about who can create services on top of that to change users experiences

Example I use- I have my Charlie card (for Boston public transport) and I have a credit card. The two don’t work together- but if they’re in the same “wallet” in the NFC phone you can automatically charge the card from your phone in order to add money to your cards. In the next 2-3 years we’ll start to see those value-added services that will appeal to the general public. That’s the way I see it crossing the chasm, in tech speak

4.What are some of the potential risks that are being looked at? Any not being looked at that should be?

Privacy is the big issue. There is the ability of someone to walk past you and identify you. Most of that technology is already in your wallet, so it’s not really new, it’s more of a perception thing… With the phone- you can actually turn off this technology, whereas you can’t turn off your credit card. There’s a perception of risk, but there are better ways to handle the privacy with this.

Technology risk- people have been having issues with the basic RF interface- trying to build antennas into a phone, there’s lot’s of metal in the phone to make it a difficult user experience. People are used to relatively large read ranges up to 5 or 6 centimeters, but so far, you have to get your phone really close to a reader, almost touch them- that’s part of the risk- also why it’s called near field communication, how close is too close? Will it get confused with the person next to me?

5. What other industries or fields will be impacted by this-

Transportation, Banking, Retail- people will be using this to read tags on things that will then pop up information about whatever the product is- Google’s doing this. Access control- doors, replacing people’s badges with NFC tags

 6. When do you think we’ll be using phones for all of this together?

There will be a few early adopters by the end of the year, a small percent of users of smart phones equipped with this, which is still a small percent of overall phones, 18-24 months before you see an average person walking into the store to use this technology (people that aren’t aware of technology)

7. NFC is already being used in other countries in Asia, correct?

Yes, two parts- Korea and Japan- they are both relatively small countries and have strong government control over what happens, Japan’s telecom  company uses this. The government is able to mandate that all aspects of the public transportation use this technology, making sure it all works together. It’s a small enough ecosystem where they can mandate it. Similar to Korea- KT is very strong they push out to the people. It’s much more difficult in EU and US, there are a lot of different players that don’t want to work together and all have different motivations.


On April 6th, 2011 at 5:30PM, we interviewed Benjamin Tarsa as a potential user of NFC technology. Benjamin Tarsa is a Graduate Associate for Instructional Technology at the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship. As a potential NFC user familiar with trends in technology, Ben provided his opinion on the usability and concerns over NFC in regards to the “virtual wallet” and as an educational tool.


On April 15th, 2011 at 5:30PM, we interviewed Timothy B. Steele. Timothy B. Steele is the VP Strategic Alliances of Unisys WW Strategic Services. As VP of Strategic Alliances for Unisys Corporation, a global information technology company, Timothy Steele provided both professional and personal insight into the predictions for adoption trends surrounding NFC.



Timothy B. Steele

VP, Strategic Alliances

Unisys WW Strategic Services


Mobile:  617.407.6624

Office: 202.596.8029

Summary of Generation:

As VP of Strategic Alliances for Unisys Corporation, a global information technology company, Timothy Steele provided both professional and personal insight into the predictions for adoption trends surrounding NFC.

Media Location:


Q: Can you tell us a little about the field you work in and your role within the field?

A: Sure.  I work for Unisys which is a four twenty-three thousand employee IT services and technology company.  And I personally run the alliance program and business development organization.

Q: Before I told you about NFC, had you heard much about the technology?

A: No, I had not heard much about NFC, which is very surprising.  I am certainly very familiar with wireless A0211, RFID, etc.

Q: Can you see, in the future, if NFC becomes more standardized, NFC fitting in your daily life, could you see yourself using it and it becoming more popular?

A: Sure, it would be great if I could get rid of my credit cards and have a payment system similar to credit cards that runs from my smartphone, in my case, my iPhone.  From a business perspective it would be even more compelling.  We have solutions that we offer for our customers for secure credentialing, border control, smart employee access, etc. So having a technology like that would be helpful, particularly if it became wide-spread standard.

Q: Do you see any wide-spread affects it could have on the world in general?

A: Well, clearly, if it got embraced widely as a standard and it became secure  – in other words- it could be a trusted identity for people to use, that would be terrific.  It would allow us to integrate things in terms of our smart phones, eliminate the need for plastic credit cards, it could help us in border control issues that we have where we could actually put it in our passports or passport-like device.  So yeah, I think it could be great.

Q: Would you have any concerns using it over a credit card or a smart code for security reasons?  Let’s say if you lost your phone…

A: Actually, it would be more secure already if it was an application that ran on my smartphone because my smartphone is at least password protected in the event I lose it or someone else would pick it up.   That’s clearly not the case with my credit card.

Q:  So you don’t see any large security concerns implementing NFC within businesses as well?

A: I really don’t.  It is a wireless technology, the security and encryption that goes around it is going to determine how secure it is, but in general no.


On April 18th, 2011 at 12Pm, we interviewed Jiashan Cui, Chao Ding, Vanessa J. Panaligan, Yang Lv and Clair Mckinley at Georgetown University. As the potential users that were randomly picked in the campus, they were asked to answer several questions around NFC technology. Moreover, we shot the pictures for the video on April 29th, 2011 at 8:00PM at River House.


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