NFC’s progress in the Middle East

Last updated: 13 December 2019

Although NFC has not yet reached critical mass in the Middle East. Is has an active userbase which is continuing to grow. Over the last few years, we have seen a gradual shift towards the adoption of contactless technologies and there is growing evidence that the contactless tap and go mentality is rapidly developing in the UAE.

A good example of this is the Go4it card, launched back in 2011 by Emirates National Bank of Dubai, which combines payments and a contactless mass transit ticketing system, where passengers are happy to tap their Nol MiFare contactless cards to pass through gates. We are beginning to see widespread consumer adoption of contactless to pay for local travel. Passengers simply tap their card at the turnstile rather than swipe their card or use cash.

Since then, many other initiatives of this type have emerged, with the recent NFC transport ticketing service adoption in Dubai being yet another example of this.

Further evidence of this shift across the rest of the Middle East can also be seen in transport providers’ investment in the infrastructure required to roll-out contactless. The main challenge is still the contactless infrastructure at point-of-sale. Obviously this roll-out will take time, and the migration to NFC-enabled POS infrastructure will not happen overnight, but many banks (both in the Middle East and worldwide) are committed to updating their systems. If we look at the latest reports from ABI research, 85% of POS terminals will support contactless payments in 2016.

The population is young and there’s definite consumer interest and appetite for NFC technologies in the Middle East, which we highlighted earlier this year. Which begs the question: why isn’t there more NFC technology in place?

Ultimately, it is because mass deployment is dependent on an ecosystem and a compatible platform that can support NFC innovation and adoption. We are at the beginning of the contactless revolution in the region and all parties need to get involved. While NFC transport ticketing services have been the main area of focus so far, mobile operators and banks are looking at the next steps to include payment, and we will see a growing wave of novel NFC use cases that bring intelligence and simplicity to people’s daily life coming on to the market.

There are many initiatives that NFC players can use to raise awareness and drive adoption, one being offering simpler NFC scenarios to subscribers – with an NFC-enabled business card for instance (POPwings) – to increase their knowledge and desire for NFC interaction.

The future for NFC and other innovative technology in the Middle East is ripe with potential, and we’re keen to support the developments in every way possible. We’ll be at GITEX so come and see us in Hall 7 at stand A7-35. You could even win an iPad by tweeting at us – follow us at #GemaltoGITEX.