CES Dispatches: Sony demos new uses for NFC

NFC, or near-field communications, is a technology that has struggled for want of a killer app. But that may be beginning to change.

NFC, which involves low-power radio chips, has been heavily promoted by Google and others for use in allowing consumers to make payments with their mobile phones. But outside of a few places, that market has yet to take off.

But  the technology is starting to find a useful life as an easy means to allow tech gadgets to connect.

Last year, Samsung showed how consumers could use the NFC chips in their phones to quickly and easily connect them by just tapping them together. Once their phones were connected, users could transfer pictures and other files easily from phone to phone without having to email them or send them through text message.

Now Sony seems to be taking that idea to the next level. At its booth here at the Consumer Electronics Show, the company is showing how consumers can use NFC chips to connect a collection of different gadgets.

So, by tapping a laptop to a wireless speaker system, users can stream music from their computer without having to monkey with their WiFi or Bluetooth settings. Instead, the two devices connect automatically. Consumers can make a similar connection with the NFC chip in their smartphones, allowing them to easily connect it to a pair of wireless headphones.

Perhaps the coolest use of NFC I saw at Sony’s booth was the ability to pair your phone with your TV to send pictures or movies to the TV. Instead of tapping your phone directly to your TV, though, you just tap it to the back of the TV’s remote. It’s not as easy as Apple’s AirPlay technology — which connects gadgets without needing to tap them together — but it’s easier than most non-Apple ways of connecting gadgets that I’ve seen.

So perhaps there’s a use for NFC after all, even if it isn’t going to replace your wallet any time soon.

Troy Wolverton Troy Wolverton (274 Posts)

Troy writes the Tech Files column as the Personal Technology Columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. He also covers the digital media, mobile and video game industries and writes occasionally about Apple, chips, social networking and other aspects of technology. Previously, Troy covered Apple and the consumer electronics industry. Prior to joining the Mercury News, Troy reported on technology, business and financial issues for TheStreet.com and CNET News.com.