More than 10,000 Mobile World Congress 2013 attendees tried out the NFC Experience at this year's event. "We can probably improve a few things regarding the ergonomics," the GSMA's head of NFC has told NFC World, "but overall it went smoothly."
The NFC Experience was designed as a way for the mobile network operators' trade body to showcase the wide range of use cases for the technology to the event's audience of 72,000 mobile industry executives.
Attendees with an NFC phone could make payments with NFC and interact with touch points at the Mobile World Congress venue, key hotels, the airport and tourist locations in Barcelona.
3,500 phones were also handed out to VIP attendees to spread the word still further. A vouchers and coupons app, provided by Accenture, allowed attendees to download exclusive vouchers and coupons that could be redeemed at shops and restaurants around Barcelona.
At the core of the NFC Experience were new NFC entry 'badges', designed to allow faster entry to the event and cut out the need to show photo ID.
The NFC Badge app was compatible with NFC-enabled Android 4, Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 7.1 handsets and, once users had registered their details on the app and added a photo, they were able to use dedicated lanes to speed up the entry process.
Some visitors did struggle with getting up and running with the NFC Badge service, however, as well as with the overall experience of using the NFC access gates. These included Ars Technica's Peter Bright who wrote: "You had to put the phone's NFC chip in exactly the right spot or they wouldn't let you in, and that's more annoying than it should be."
"We had a security constraint that made the user's journey more complicated than they could have expected," Pierre Combelles, head of NFC at the GSMA, explained to NFC World.
"The displayed picture of the visitor needed to be validated by our registration staff before the badge could be activated. Something that many didn't expect," he added. "Once the badges were activated it was a pleasure."
"We can probably improve a few things regarding the ergonomics but overall it went smoothly," Combelles said. "There are a few lessons to be learned for sure and we are working them out right now!"
Many attendees reported positively on the overall experience. And many took enjoyment from the sight of iPhone owners, used to having the very latest mobile technology, being forced to watch from the queue in the slow lane as their devices still lack NFC:
The value of the NFC badge at #mwc13 is not in the tech itself, but in seeing all the iPhone people waiting in line
— Alan Mendelevich (@ailon) February 26, 2013