Nokia to bring NFC to New York commuters

The handset maker has signed a deal with the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority to test cloud-based NFC ticketing with Nokia phones by the end of 2011, the company has told NFC World. NFC payments will then arrive on Nokia phones for the first time at the beginning of 2012.

Nokia World 2011
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New York commuters are set to be the first to use Nokia NFC phones for transportation ticketing, the handset maker has announced at its annual Nokia World event today.

Nokia has come to an agreement with the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to develop an NFC-based smartphone ticketing solution which will pilot on regional commuter trains by the end of 2011.

“What we’re doing with the MTA is looking at other ways that transport can be managed,” Nokia’s head of NFC, Jeremy Belostock, told NFC World at the event. “The MTA is looking at different ways of presenting value on a card, like the Oyster card, but moving that value into the network. We’ll continue this move with our Symbian devices, working on cloud-based mobile ticketing and payment.”

Secure NFC payments will arrive on Symbian NFC phones for the first time at the beginning of 2012, Belostock added. As a first step, an NFC card emulation update will be sent out to the Nokia 603 — launched earlier this month — enabling the handset to be used for mobile payments using NFC SIM cards.

“After the 603 gets a software update to support mobile payments, other devices on Symbian will come out next year that will enable users to make mobile payments,” Belostock explained.

“Our first job was and is to get NFC out to consumers,” he added. “The second task is to see where the opportunities are with the different operators out there.”

Continuing, Belostock explained: “We are at the very beginning of finding out what is there to explore in NFC, and how that can be managed.”

Regarding the future of NFC on Windows-based mobile devices, Belostock would only note that: “Everything in our announcements today was about Windows Phone, but it’s too early for us to speculate on future product.”

At Nokia World today the handset maker announced its first Windows Phone powered devices, the Nokia Lumia 800 and Lumia 710, as well as a family of feature phones under the Asha brand name. None of the new phones come with NFC, but Microsoft announced last week that Windows Phone will get support for NFC in 2012.

“From our perspective, there are lots of opportunities for us to explore NFC with Microsoft,” Belostock added. “Nokia is keen to be seen as a leader in the NFC space; that’s a real ambition, and that will continue.”

Currently Nokia is working on educating the public about the uses of NFC; the company is using NFC tags in its accessories and in stuffed toys that can be ‘tapped’ to deliver benefits to the user such as unlocking new levels or new characters in games including Angry Birds Magic.

On educating end users, Belostock said Nokia is guiding the market towards NFC and opening doors, then it is promoting its partners, such as social check-in service Foursquare and Rovio’s massively popular Angry Birds, as much as possible. “That’s where the innovation and usage will come in; this is a sign of a big shift in partnership thinking by Nokia,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Rupert Englander, Nokia’s UK and Ireland head of services, sales and marketing and the key spokesperson for NFC Hub, the company’s online statistical and campaign management tool, said things are going well. “The way we see it, there are four areas of NFC: Open NFC, including posters and tags; pairing NFC, for pairing accessories before a handover to Bluetooth or wireless LAN; sharing NFC, tapping two devices together to exchange content; and payment and ticketing. Each of these are great use cases, but open NFC is a good way to begin that drive. With all the use cases, you’ll see a bubbling up of activity in all areas, and some areas will move faster than others, but there will be crossover.

“We’re still very much in the education phase, and what we’re focused on at the moment, from an NFC Hub point of view, is the tags. We’re seeing strong interest from many, many organisations and brands, who have all expressed a desire to get involved with NFC, but the question for them is time. We’re very much at the beginning of the wave, and over the rest of 2011 and 2012, that will grow,” concluded Englander.

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