London: NFC is too slow for us to put in the Underground

This year the city of London is hosting the Olympics, which means they’re going to invest tons of money into their infrastructure to make a lasting impression on the millions of tourists who will come and visit the old empire. The London Underground, which at close to 150 years old is one of the oldest public transportation systems in existence, recently got WiFi connectivity and additional 3G capacity, but what about NFC? According to GigaOM, London conducted NFC trials in 2008 and 2010 and came to the conclusion that it’s simply too slow. It takes 500 milliseconds to process a touch, which is unbearable when you consider how many people go in and out of a tube station at any particular moment. At this point you may be wondering, what about the Oyster Card, doesn’t that use wireless technology? It does, but not NFC. Instead it utilizes MIFARE, which is a proprietary technology developed by NXP Semiconductors. It’s more than 200 milliseconds faster according to the NFC Times.

Now we could view this as bad news, but let’s be honest with ourselves, NFC is taking an eternity to hit the market. And once it does, it’s not going to somehow magically enable you to leave the house without your wallet. Things like photo ID cards will still have to be carried, plus think of all the shops in the UK that will be slow to update their payment terminals. Hell, some shops still only accept cash!

And as for when NFC will actually break through, rumor has it that Apple decided against putting the technology into the next iPhone because they’d rather wait and see how the technology develops. That tells you something right there since they’re the company that usually wants to shove the latest and greatest technology into consumers hands as fast as humanly possible.

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