The Bling Nation NFC sticker trial in Silicon Valley has expanded from its beginnings at PayPal's headquarters to include the Stanford University campus, Palo Alto city services and Facebook's offices — as rumours of a major NFC play by some of Silicon Valley's leading companies begin to emerge.
Bling Nation's mobile payments pilot in Palo Alto has now expanded to include distribution of mobile contactless stickers to staff at Facebook's headquarters and to the Stanford University campus. The City of Palo Alto has also backed the trial, enabling local residents to use their Bling Tags to pay utility bills, long-term parking bills and parking fines with plans to include city libraries, community centers and various museums in the coming months.
The expansion comes as speculation is building that a group of leading Silicon Valley companies are behind a major initiative to launch a suite of disruptive new services based on NFC technology. No names have been confirmed as yet but Google, Facebook, Apple and PayPal are being watched most closely.
Apple has filed a suite of NFC-related patents and recently hired an NFC expert as its new head of mobile commerce and PayPal is working with Bling Nation on the Palo Alto trial but, despite having much to gain from the arrival of near field communication technology, both Google and Facebook have so far kept a very low profile when it comes to NFC.
Now, Google is rumoured to be about to distribute as many as eight million "custom mobile devices" to small businesses around the US, according to Techcrunch. "These devices will allow customers to check-in and rate the businesses and perhaps even purchase items via Google Checkout."
Facebook, meanwhile, is reported to be working on a 'Facebook phone' — or, at least, is working with manufacturers to develop phones that optimise the Facebook experience on a mobile handset. And, while it is yet to make any public move towards NFC, the company is certainly aware of its potential. In April, all attendees of the company's f8 developer conference were issued with RFID tags that enabled them to check-in to various locations around the conference venue.
While there is no confirmation yet that either of these projects will have an NFC angle, the fact that they come on top of rumours of a major NFC play being planned in Silicon Valley suggest that they may. Whether Bling Nation will be the payments solution of choice for any Silicon Valley-backed NFC venture also remains to be seen. But the fact that Bling Nation's payments technology is specifically designed to reduce costs by cutting out middlemen, such as acquirers, processors and brands such as Visa and MasterCard, is likely to hold great appeal in an environment where the development and adoption of disruptive technologies is very much the order of the day...