The NFC wave is coming…kinda.

I stepped out yesterday morning to go to an appointment and when I got back I dumped my wallet on my desk then neatly stacked my phone on top of it. I’ve got a Nokia Lumia 920 running Windows Phone 8. After a second my phone chimed. I was familiar with the noise because I have a wireless charging stand by my bedside table.

Turns out that the NFC proximity sensor on the Nokia Lumia 920 had picked up an NFC chip from the many cards within my wallet. This afternoon I sat down to figure out which card it was and how I could use the proximity API within Windows RT to read the card.

As I flicked through the cards in my wallet and held them out to my phone I found that if the 23 cards in my wallet, six of them had NFC chips within them. Of those there were 3 bank cards, 2 transport cards and 1 loyalty card.

My next goal was to figure out how the proximity API within Windows Phone works to see whether I could get access to any of the details on the cards. I’ve slapped together a quick example of how to use the proximity API. The code uses the ProximityDevice and hooks up to the DeviceArrived and DeviceDeparted events and also calls SubscribeForMessage.

Unfortunately none of the cards that I had in my wallet contained an NFC device which was in a format that Windows Phone 8 could understand. NFC messages that Windows RT supports are listed on the PublishBinaryMessage documentation page. From what I can tell Windows Phone 8 only supports a subset of these, and other than Windows specific message types, the messages need to be formatted using NDEF. If you happen to have an NDEF formatted card you can use the NDEF library hosted at CodePlex to work with the data directly.

I hope that in the future Microsoft will open up more of the NFC device capabilities on their mobile platform. I suspect that many loyalty card programs that use NFC won’t necessarily encode their messages with NDEF which will limit the ability to do anything interesting with Windows Phone unless they take the step to redistribute cards (unlikely).

Either way, I think that we are going to see more and more NFC moving forward. It is already quickly taking hold with credit card/over-the-counter transactions, but so much more is possible with mobile integration. Maybe I’ll look at using NFC in between mobile devices next. The NFC wave is coming…kinda.

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