Foursquare to Test NFC at Google Developer Conference

Location-based social networking site foursquare announced today it would test NFC-based check-ins at Google’s I/O 2011 developer conference in San Francisco, which kicks off Tuesday with thousands of developers expected.

Foursquare, which mainly uses GPS-enabled smartphones to let users check in at bars, restaurants, stores and other venues, said it has been working with Google to set up smart posters embedded with NFC tags throughout the Moscone Center, where the conference is being held.

Users with NFC-enabled Android phones, which currently consists of only Google’s Nexus S, can tap the posters to check in with foursquare, according to the startup’s blog. People who check in will get a Google I/O badge. Foursquare awards “badges” or titles to users for checking in at certain venues.

Foursquare, which announced last year it had 6.5 million members, has also said it has tested NFC at its headquarters.

“We think a lot about the future of location, and every time a new technology comes along, we think about how it affects what we’re doing,” said foursquare in the blog. "Near Field Communication is one of those technologies; you tap your phone against a marker, and it can check you in with foursquare.”

Foursquare added that while NFC is a “long way from being available everywhere and in all phones,” the startup is “excited by some of the potential.”

Other location-based social networking sites are experimenting with NFC. For example, Beijing-based startup Jiepang, which bears a strong resemblance to foursquare, the latter reportedly blocked in China, enables users to check in at venues and share their locations with friends. Also like foursquare, Jiepang users can earn badges or rewards for checking in, and they can redeem the rewards with merchants or for other prizes with consumer products partners.

Jiepang tested NFC-based check-ins at a recent music festival in Beijing.

Facebook is also reportedly testing NFC for its Facebook Places check-in service. And there are smaller location-based social networking companies getting involved. That includes Finnish start-up 6Starz, which plans to launch a trial this summer enabling users to tap their NFC phones to check in at restaurants and other establishments and to chat and exchange profile details with new friends.

Other NFC announcements are possible at Google’s I/O 2011. Google is strongly backing NFC, with plans to roll out NFC-based mobile commerce at retail stores in the United States and abroad. It has incorporated NFC in its current Android smartphone operating system and is encouraging Android device makers to support NFC. 

Google has already started rolling out NFC-based check-in for its Google Places service. Consumers with Android NFC smartphones can download the Google Places app and touch their devices to stickers or decals that merchants affix to their storefronts. By tapping, users can access information about the local business, including phone numbers, hours of operation, payment types, reviews and recommendations.

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