Tap-to-pay could get more capable and more complicated

At some point in the future, a new “Multi-Purpose Tap” concept will let payment cards or devices like smartwatches and phones accomplish multiple things at once when using NFC. With this in play, a customer in a store might tap their phone with Apple Wallet or Google Pay on a terminal that simultaneously checks their ID if they’re buying booze, add points to their loyalty account, pay for their goods, and provide them with a digital receipt.

Some of the concept’s goals are laid out today in a PDF from the NFC Forum, the nonprofit consortium of tech companies that guides and promotes the NFC standard and which includes Apple, Google, and Sony among its roster.

NFC Forum slide on Multi-Purpose Tap.
Image: NFC Forum

No more paper, just receipts on my phone? Sign me up. The forum says that this could also be used to share details about a product, like the best way to recycle it, when you use an NFC tap to pay.

However, the Multi-Purpose Tap vision the forum presents raises some privacy questions. The forum highlights how it also means you, the customer, no longer have to enter your details into a separate tablet next to a register to get your points. But it “could also be used to trigger specific, targeted marketing communications.” That’s less appealing.

The details of how retailers and payment-processing companies would use this in the real world are unknown, but making it too easy for a retailer to link activity to an individual profile can cause all kinds of problems.

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