The history of Near Field Communications (NFC) technology can be traced back almost three decades to the early experiments in radio frequency identification (RFID) in the early 1980s. However, it is only thanks to recent developments in technology and mobile devices that NFC has started to have an impact on the way business works.

These developments have paved the way for a huge surge in demand in 2011. The payments arm of eBay is already logging up to $10m in mobile payments a day and projects it will receive $3bn in mobile-payment transactions by the end of the financial year, up from an earlier estimate of $1.5bn.

The number of payments will increase further as more electronic retailers, restaurants, fast food outlets and even supermarkets join in. Payments via mobile devices are forecast to take off over the next three years, with analyst Jupiter Research predicting that global transactions will double in value to $50bn by 2014.

Consumer spending is not the only area that is likely to be transformed by NFC technology. Innovative technology suppliers are investigating how NFC technology can provide an efficiency boost in areas of service delivery.

Take IT specialist – and ABS’s sister company – Advanced Health & Care, which is already experiencing a huge rise in demand for its mobile workforce solution iConnect. The NFC-based system allows remote healthcare workers to better manage service user visits through the provision of real-time communication between care workers and support staff.

On arrival and departure, care workers touch their mobile phone against a small RFID tag in the service user’s home. The secure and unobtrusive approach improves the quality of management information, delivering live schedules to care workers and verifiable arrival departure times to the office.

The efficiency benefits of iConnect are huge, typically creating savings of over 20 per cent through the elimination of paper-based processes. If all 111,700 local authority care workers achieved a similar efficiency gain, an extra 34.4 million visits could be made each year.

With retailers across the UK already preparing to allow consumers to pay via NFC-enabled phones, other organisations in other sectors will have to follow suit as consumers become used to this new form of interaction. Beat your competition and start exploring now.