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"BLE Vs NFC"? - It's not about the technology, but about the philosophy

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The debate that seems to be raging amongst those in the wider industry is whether Apple has sounded the death knell of NFC by one again bypassing the opportunity to support it, and itself preferring to look more closely at BLE, or Bluetooth Light. This has been picked up and immediately the discussion has centered around whether one technology can kill the other. Some say NFC will suffer whereas some say BLE is more expensive to implement and doesn't pose a threat.

My view is that it actually centers around something far more philosophical than the technical capability, but rather requires a focus back to user behaviour.

On the one hand you have NFC (and QR codes, AR, text entry, urls for that matter). This class of engagement capabilities I would class as "pull" propositions. As a consumer I choose what I want to interact with and it's up to me to instigate the interaction through my preferred mechanic.

On the other hand you have the "push" or broadcast proposition which is that I am going to receive a warning that someone or something is trying to get in contact with me and to choose whether or not I want to accept that interaction.

These are fundamental and important characteristic differences which is why I don't believe they are in competition with each other. Some people believe that the broadcast approach is the way forward and others think that the engagement approach is better suited. There's no right answer. Just opinion and a belief of what approach is right for a consumer and that particular proposition. That's not competition. That's choice.

For me, the winners will be the devices that implement both the capabilities and leave it up to consumers (and the campaign implementers) to choose either, neither or both that they want to make use of.

Which is why Apple's continued reluctance to implement NFC goes to show how far they have moved away from consumer thinking and are being guided by the desire (or need) to control absolutely everything in their ecosystem. Ultimately though, it is the consumer and campaign implementers that will decide on the best approach.

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  • Guest
    Barry Sunday, 26 January 2014

    BLE becomes frightning

    After reading some articles about BLE possibility, it becomes realy creepy. Stores can track you step by step, and push notifications (read junk messages) to you when you are even near the store.

    What can criminals do with a system like this (they can be very creative with this). It looks like that tracking people becomes more easy to do, and pushing phishing messages. Maybe other fake things with virus. And how easy to check someone is at home or not.

    It looks like that this system will kill BLE to it's succes.

  • Guest
    Wayne Carstensen Wednesday, 04 December 2013

    Great insight

    I considered communication range the deciding factor, but your push/pull distinction puts a finer point the subject. Amongst the pull variety, NFC seems to be the quickest to transact (camera scanning QR codes is annoying). My impression was that Apple made the wrong choice excluding NFC, but now I'm not so sure. As a modern handheld device, with one of the most sophisticated touch interfaces, its primary role is communicating with the user. NFC requires near contact, which pulls the UI away from the user's attention. I think it was an Apple exec that pointed out how awkward it would be to have to bump everything in the store with your phone. I imagine the more elegant solution will be a separate NFC reader that relays values to the host over BLE. A separate NFC reader would allow the user to interrogate multiple tags without the user shifting focus from their smart device.

  • Wooshping
    Wooshping Friday, 06 December 2013


    Thanks for your considered response. I think you summarised well the points I was trying to make about the distinction between the push and pull and the philosophical distinction it makes.
    Personally I don't share the Apple exec's view about pulling the UI away to make the interaction being a problem. It takes only a fraction of a second to tap a tag, and should the oft heralded payments solutions come to life, people will get increasingly used to this interaction for that second that it becomes second nature. What effect wearables has will also be an interesting additional dynamic (nfc enabled wristband that communicates with your phone - could replicate the "separate reader" vision you have.
    Given that Apple has started rolling their iBeacons across their retail estate in the US as of today, we'll get a clearer view on their vision for this capability and again whether consumers respond positively to it. I suspect Apple might enforce it upon people - i.e. "if you want to shop here you have to use it" type approach. Should be interesting...

  • Guest
    Phil Tuesday, 26 November 2013

    Apple controls their ecosystem bla bla bla

    The article would have been decent if it didn't take the Fandroid blind approach to the wrap-up. Too bad, NFC... too bad. You're DOA.

  • Wooshping
    Wooshping Friday, 06 December 2013

    Fandroid? Moi?

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. I'm not an Android fan. Honestly. I tried one for 2 weeks but just couldn't get on with it. The point of my wrap up was that I feel as though apple isn't getting the consumer any more. That's all. Not falling on any side - just an observation.

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