The search for a problem that only Near Field Communications can solve now sees an NFC-equipped key fob which can interact with a mobile phone to report a car's mileage, fuel level, tyre pressure and location... or what it was last time the fob looked.
The technology comes from car-component specialist Delphi, which reckons a NFC Gateway Key Fob (specs here in pdf) could enable a "permanent and constant link between drivers and their vehicles". Which would be fine, except for the 10cm range of an NFC signal, so the link is only constant when the driver is very close to their vehicle.
But that's not stopped company rep Craig Tieman telling RFID Journal: "No matter where you are, you can interact with your phone application and download information to the car... You can make changes to the car's interior temperature settings, or configure a new playlist from inside a restaurant, for example." This is true, though the changes won't actually affect the car until you get back into it.
You'll need NFC in your phone, of course, and your car too, so you could simply synchronise the phone directly with the car - but where's the margin in that? Delphi says its fob can be combined with the usual unlocking RFID technology, so you will be able to unlock your car using the fob if not the NFC component of it.
We're not sure if this is more insane than the NFC card that you have to hold beside your phone to use the phone's NFC functionality - as recommended by the UK's Home Office - but it's certainly a contender for the most insane application of wireless.
Even RFID Journal felt obliged to point out that services such as OnStar already offer a GSM-connected car that can provide real-time information, but that does need a subscription. Not that such a sub will be avoidable if the EU gets its way and we are all required to have mobile phones in all our cars.
But even if we don't, it's hard to imagine that a cache store on a keyfob is going to be the killer application for NFC, any more than the NFC-equipped gravestone or the battery-powered sticker. So we'll keep watching for that breakthrough technology which makes us wonder how we ever survived without Near Field Communications. ®