Enhance the Chatbot Experience with NFC!

Did you know you can physically build a chatbot? The combination of IoT and NFC results in endless possibilities.

As new technologies emerge, we continuously find more ways to improve customer experience. The drastic expansion of internet of things, or IoT, has been a game changer, and the number of connected devices embedded in our daily lives is rapidly increasing. This opens up a variety of new opportunities for businesses and consumers alike.  

One of the latest technologies to enter the mainstream is NFC, which is already being used across a variety of industries as a simple yet intuitive way of combining the physical and digital worlds. At BotXO, we focus on refining the chatbot experience, and we believe NFC will take it to the next level. In this blog post, we will cover the characteristics of NFC, its current uses, and how it can potentially affect the way we use chatbots.

Businessman with smartphone, smartwatch, and PC at office.

1. What is NFC?

NFC stands for near-field communication and allows compatible devices to exchange information with a simple tap. While it may sound like groundbreaking technology, it is fundamentally more evolutionary than revolutionary. As a form of wireless communication, it can be seen as similar to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and, most notably, RFID. However, the significantly closer proximity required for NFC usage is often seen as a security advantage as it minimizes the odds of accidental interaction. The devices only interact when intended.

NFC is also occasionally compared to QR codes, which are often seen on printed and digital advertisements for users to scan. However, NFC has several advantages that make it stand out. Both NFC tags and Dynamic QR Codes can be edited after writing. It is possible to overwrite them both as frequently as required. By overwriting previous information on the tag (e.g. a change of URL), it is possible to change their functionality entirely. QR codes sometimes require the user to open a scanner app, when the camera isn’t capable of scanning the codes natively. NFC readers are embedded in most latest generation Android phones, where there is no need to open a specific application to initiate the interaction. For Iphone NFC functionality will depend on the generation of iPhone and the software you are running. 

QR codes used to have one notable advantage: Market compatibility. A significantly larger number of smartphones were able to scan QR codes compared to NFC tags. However, in recent years, we have witnessed an increase in NFC usage as the mobile industry continues to evolve. Modern smartphones now encompass the hardware needed to read NFC tags, meaning more people have access to the technology than ever before. This also means businesses have had more incentive to utilize it. As a result, many people take advantage of NFC daily in various settings whether they are aware of it or not. We will now look at some examples. 

Two smartphones communicating using NFC, and another smartphone scanning an NFC tag.

2. Current uses of NFC

As mentioned above, NFC functionality is only activated when the compatible devices are together. In other words, we can describe it as touch-based interaction. This is particularly important and one of the main reasons why it has taken off in the payment space. For an increasing number of people, smartphones have replaced credit cards as their preferred way of paying. After the simple act of holding the phone next to the terminal in a store, you will be asked to confirm the payment by authenticating using a passcode, fingerprint reader, or even facial recognition. It is also possible to pay using other types of NFC-compatible smart devices, such as watches, which makes the technology even more flexible. In other words, contactless transactions are secure, immediate, and seamless. 

This new method of paying is more than just a by-product of NFC. Some of the biggest smartphone manufacturers in the world have been pushing for this revolution by introducing digital wallet services such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. They have slowly expanded to an increasing number of countries since their respective launches, making it more and more common to pay with smart devices.

Smartphone being used for contactless payment with NFC technology.

Similar contactless technology currently exists for public transport as well, including cards with built-in NFC components. In fact, NFC usage is far from exclusive to smart devices. We have seen a number of creative uses of the technology – especially in entertainment formats such as video games. Disney, LEGO, and Nintendo have all adopted it by producing small NFC-compatible figurines that can interact with game software. Tapping these character figurines to a game controller will make those exact characters appear in the game itself, which adds an extra dimension to the fun and breaks the barrier between the physical and digital. Another example of NFC use cases is the mobile access control. A technology that allows the user to manage locks, issue digital keys and manage NFC tags and cards, directly with your mobile phone.

NFC is versatile and can take any shape or form. Even something as thin as cards and stickers can have built-in NFC tech. This is because NFC tags, the chips that occupy these devices, are miniscule. In addition, they are priced so cheaply that most people have access to them. At the same time, they can be programmed to perform a variety of different tasks.

Miniscule, cheap, and self-programmable – this is the perfect recipe for users to get inventive. The possibilities of NFC are only limited by your own creativity. For example, you could automatically launch Google Maps when you dock your phone in your car. You could also place an NFC tag on your bedside table and make your phone set the alarm for you. How about automatically sharing your Wi-Fi with a simple tap so nobody has to ask for the password? While tech-savvy individuals are already taking advantage of this freedom, we believe an increasing number of people will begin to realize the potential of NFC. 

3. Potential chatbot integration

It is now firmly established that there are virtually no limits to what we can do with the technology. The versatile nature of NFC brings up an important question: How can chatbots take advantage of this growing phenomenon?   

At BotXO, we have a check-in/check-out system for guests of the BotHouse – our office in Copenhagen. By tapping an NFC tag with their phones, guests are automatically directed to a chatbot we created for this purpose. The chatbot then asks for their name and company at arrival, and, in the same conversational way, it will register their departure when they leave the building, which is an opportunity for us to collect feedback on their experience. This all happens by simply inputting a URL to the NFC tag. Directing people to a website is one of the simplest uses of NFC, but combining it with a chatbot that users can interact with makes the experience more fun and engaging.

Person scanning an NFC tag on a door using a smartphone.

While this system has worked great for us, there is potential for it to make an even more significant impact. An example could be an event with a large number of people having to register their arrival. This is usually done with the help of clerks or, in the case of self-check-in, tablets such as iPads. In any case, having attendees stand in a line waiting to be checked in is not ideal. However, this technology would make it possible for guests to access a chatbot by touching their personal phone to an NFC tag. The chatbot can then guide users through the check-in process. This is instantaneous and cuts down on waiting time. Furthermore, the chatbot could then continue to be used throughout said event for a variety of inquiries and act as a guide. In a convention setting, the bot would be able to share information about the booths and their locations, when and where to find keynote speeches, and opening hours. This type of assistance would enhance the experience of the event and make it easier to navigate for every party involved.

By automating part of the tasks of customer support teams, staff members will be free to take on other tasks, which could be especially useful during peak hours or holidays such as Black Friday. A store with NFC-enabled posters or labels on the shelves would allow consumers to instantly have access to a personal shopping assistant even if the staff is busy – and thus result in higher customer satisfaction. The bot would be able to answer general questions regarding product information, location within a store, or even general availability. It could also help visitors select what is right for them by recommending products based on their wants and needs, which is especially useful in a variety of settings such as grocery stores or libraries. A staggering 90% of smartphone owners use their devices while in-store. This is the perfect opportunity to create a physical-digital shopping and browsing experience.

Woman using her smartphone in a grocery store.

Taking care of customer inquiries is extremely important. Visitors who are unable to get help or find their desired products are more likely to leave the store, leading to a lost sale. Because of this, the technology is especially useful for retail. However, as mentioned earlier, the potential uses are only limited by one’s imagination. In restaurants, visitors could save time by ordering from a bot instead of waiting for a waiter. In a hotel, guests could check in using a bot. In schools, students could ask why their grades have yet to be received. The list goes on. 

This solution not only improves usability, but it also acts as a channel of communication. Users can initiate dialogue at any time without the need to search for the contact information of a company – a simple tap will allow access. From a business perspective, it can be seen as a way to improve relationships with customers. For companies that already sell physical products, incorporating NFC tags in said products should be reasonably effortless, and by doing so, consumers will have a way to get in touch with a business for years to come, which can strengthen brand loyalty in the long run. The touchpoint does not have to be a one-time occurrence and can instead be utilized long after the purchase.

These are just a few ways NFC can change the way we use chatbots. The evidence indicates that the possibilities are endless. It is estimated that, by the end of 2020, there will be 2.2 billion NFC-enabled handsets. We are looking forward to seeing what businesses come up with going forward.

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Designed by Salman Rafique.