Focus on: Near-field communications

Charlotte Beckett, head of digital at The Good Agency, looks at how charities can use wireless communications technology

Near-field communications
Near-field communications

Charlotte BeckettIf you are a regular Tube traveller in London, or have ever tapped your debit card to buy a sandwich, you'll have already used near-field communications. In simple terms, it's wireless communications technology that allows data to be transferred.

It's in bank cards, travelcards and, perhaps most significantly, smartphones (except the iPhone, although you can buy an NFC-enabled phone case).

NFC technology is increasingly being used for marketing purposes. There are a number of ways charities can make effective use of it.

Interactive storytelling

The Museum of London is using NFC technology to allow visitors to download extra information, video and audio content about exhibits as they walk around the museum. People can also shop, receive vouchers and book tickets for upcoming events. This generates income and encourages repeat visits.

Integrated campaigning

NFC tags can also be added to printed materials. Whether in a store, at an event or on public transport, passers-by can use their phones to donate instantly or sign up to a campaign. Rock The Vote's We Will campaign in the US used smart posters to register young voters for the 2012 presidential elections.

Impact reporting

After the Haiti earthquake in 2010, the US non-profit organisation Deep Springs International distributed NFC-tagged buckets and chlorine kits so that people affected could treat their own water. Health workers read the tags and sent the data back to DSI, allowing it to evaluate where the cleanest water was, and to allocate resources more efficiently. Imagine taking that a step further and giving donors real-time updates on how their support is changing lives.

The effectiveness of any campaign relies on good ideas. But isn't technology that allows us to both promote messages and take money perfect for the charity sector?

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