So this will be the year for NFC, right? While mobile payments are great, the real explosion of NFC could very well come from the areas of marketing, gaming, location, and even enterprise.

While much of the NFC (near-field communication) universe was fixated on announcements coming out of Barcelona at Mobile World Congress this week, you could argue that the epicenter of NFC’s future is Dallas, Texas. This is where the AccelerateNFC program is taking root, designed to be an industry-targeted, mentor-driven, and mentor-funded incubator for entrepreneurs with high-potential ideas in the area of NFC.

I had a chance to speak with the man behind the program, Robert Sabella, the founder and CEO of OTA Training. I applaud Robert for being an early and aggressive advocate of NFC, as evidenced by the NFC Bootcamps he has hosted throughout the country over the past few years. This latest endeavor is proof positive that some big ideas came out of these bootcamps.

Taking cue from typical accelerator programs for business, AccelerateNFC will match the highest caliber talent, resources, and funding with companies best equipped to take their ideas and products to the next level. In other words, this is for those budding entrepreneurs with tremendous outlook and vision, but limited resources. Instantly, this has my attention being a long-time advocate for the maker community in M2M.

Applications will start being accepted in August and wrap up in September, with winners announced in October. Up to five winning companies will participate in an intensive, 12-week mentoring program designed to provide access to resources not typically given to start-up companies.

I can’t wait to see what comes of it. But to me, the timing for such an idea is perfect. Think about the factors that have led us here:
-Nearly every OEM handset maker offers a commercially available NFC-enabled device
-Carriers continue to promote trials of NFC to the market
-But does the average consumer know what NFC is?

Enter the Samsung mom. Come on, we all know her. It is the Samsunng Galaxy S III commercial where the wife shares a video with her husband that is intended for his eyes only, simply by tapping the two phones together.

In my opinion, that is huge. We talk a lot about what it takes to bring M2M to the mainstream. And a commercial like that generates buzz. It gets people saying, “Hey did you see that commercial with the wife sharing the video … they do that tapping thing with their phone … I want to do that.”

And to the average person it is not called NFC. It is maybe called beaming, or simply tapping, or what have you. All that matters is people are talking. And when people talk, they demand product. It forces a movement in the market. The people want to tap! But what they will tap for is still undefined.

And this is why Sabella’s program is so important, in my opinion. While the carriers, banks, POS system providers, and others move along in bringing mobile payments to fruition via NFC, evidence suggests the average consumer is still confused about mobile payments. Could they even be a bit reticent about it? Still too early to tell.

But they do want to tap. Yet, there is a gap in the market. As Sabella describes there is a missing opportunity to get meaningful apps into the hands of consumers that go beyond payment. His intent with the program is to help consumers get meaning and engaging experiences when they tap.

So, where might such ideas exist?
-Marketing: Royalty programs and couponing are huge
-Gaming: Tap your devices together in order to unlock new levels
-Enterprise: An underserved market is Sabella’s opinion, and one with tremendous opportunity

And this is merely a sampling. As he says, there are a lot of companies with great ideas, but it is the ones best positioned to bring those ideas to market that will win. This program helps provide that visibility. And the Samsung mom doesn’t hurt matters either.

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