“Just for a minute, let’s all do the bump.”
—MC Hammer “Can’t Touch This”

Was this MC Hammer classic the inspiration for near-field communications (NFC)? Probably not. But little did he know his prophetic lyrics pointed to the future as we now bump/tap our phones to pay.

Years ago, that’s all Apple thought NFC was good for, with Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi going as far as saying: (As he) put it—whilst miming said NFC-induced social awkwardness—“No need to wander around the room bumping your phone.”

Now, fast-forward to Apple’s 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference, where Apple quietly opened up support for Core NFC, which could give developers more access and options in the way iPhones communicate with connected devices via NFC technology.

Phone bumps aside, this begs the question: Why the change of heart regarding NFC?

Maybe it’s because NFC, as a user experience, is becoming part of our user habits. With global mobile payment users projected to reach 166 million people and as more banks and credit card companies develop their own payment apps, opening up NFC could turn the iPhone into a full digital wallet to keep all your payment options.

Beyond the bits, bytes, dollars, and cents.

We like money. Everyone likes money. But we’re looking beyond payment options, though, for the NFC possibilities iOS 11 could enable. It could open a whole new world for brands and marketers and enhance the way you communicate with your consumers.

In the five zones of the consumer’s retail journey we’ve identified, this enhanced communication would happen in Zone 4—the “Remind and Engage” zone. With NFC technology, you’ll have the ability to enhance product experiences via shoppers’ own devices and create trackable, two-way dialogues, providing a deeper experience for opt-in shoppers.

Want to run a sweepstakes and build your brand? Create tap-to-enter giveaways with NFC chips embedded in your product packaging. How about tap-and-play tutorials for recipes and cooking techniques that’ll help you with your fresh meal kit delivery? These are just a couple of quick examples of how you can create engagement with a new consumer base and deliver interesting, new ways to engage with your loyal fans.

Bump your speakers. Bump your fridge. Bump your washing machine.

While your customers can make a connection with your brand, NFC can also help them physically connect products, especially in the case of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. By 2020, the number of IoT devices installed worldwide is projected to reach 30.73 billion.

For all these devices, NFC can help make it easier to control smart home solutions. Everything from using your phone as a key to controlling lights to pairing your phone with your appliances (they’re all smarter than us now) can be done quick and easy via NFC.

Millions of iPhone owners would be able to take advantage of all the NFC-enabled washing machines, fridges, printers, speakers, and more that are entering the marketplace. In return, it gives those brands a whole new audience that gets to use these cool new features. Dare we ask: Could it open the door for Apple’s own line of IoT devices with proprietary NFC interactivity?

Is NFC about to hit the big time?

As we all know, Apple and its loyal consumer base can start trends and make features “cool.” Will this be the case for NFC? Maybe, especially if Apple can deliver the simple, seamless user experience they’re known to deliver in a fresh, new way. It looks like Apple has put the paddles on NFC, yelled “clear,” and zapped it, giving it new life.