NFC tech could get faster and go fully contactless within the next five years

The NFC Forum has revealed its roadmap for the technology through 2028.

DuKai photographer via Getty Images

You may be able to pay for purchases and get into train stations without having to physically touch your phone to an NFC terminal in the future. The NFC Forum, which defines the standards for NFC, has revealed a roadmap for key research and plans for near field communication through 2028. Apparently, one of the main priorities for the future of the technology is to increase its range. At the moment, NFC only works if two enabled devices are within 5 millimeters from each other, but the group says it's currently examining ranges that are "four to six times the current operating distance."

That's 30 millimeters or 1.18 inches at most, but it could enable faster transactions and fewer failed ones overall, seeing as a longer range also means there's a lower precision requirement for antenna alignment. In addition, the forum is looking to improve the current NFC wireless charging specification of 1 watt to 3 watts. The capability will bring wireless charging to "new and smaller form factors," the forum said, but didn't give examples of what those form factors could look like.

Another potential future NFC capability will support several actions with a single tap. Based on the sample use cases the forum listed — point-to-point receipt delivery, loyalty identification and total-journey ticketing — we could be looking at the possibility of being able to validate transit tickets or venue tickets for the whole family with just one tap or a single device. NFC-enabled smartphones could have the power to serve as point-of-sale devices in the future, as well. Apple's Tap to Pay feature already lets iPhone owners use their phones as payment terminals. But a standardized capability would allow more people, especially in developing countries where Android is more prevalent, to use their devices to offer payments for their small businesses and shops.

These plans are in varying stages of development right now, with some further along than others. The forum doesn't have a clear timeline for their debut yet, but it said that the timeframe for its plans spans two to five years.