Smartphones are no longer just fancy mobile devices that let you e-mail and surf the Web. A contemporary smartphone has more computing power than all of the computers that were at NASA's disposal back in 1969 when the United States first landed on the moon [source: PC Mag]. Although you probably won't use your phone to control your own lunar lander anytime soon, it will likely do all sorts of other nifty stuff, like replace your wallet, thanks to NFC (near-field communication) technology.
The beauty and utility of NFC -- a short-range, wireless communication standard -- can be summed up in three primary purposes: sharing, pairing and transactions. NFC can turn your phone into a digital wallet, become a master key for everything from your house to your car, or serve as a government or corporate identification badge. And that's just for starters. Check out a whole swath of other nifty uses at NFC Rumor's sprawling infographic.
The possibilities for NFC tech are limited only by the imaginations of clever engineers and programmers. And because of its vast range of uses, the revolution is starting with your phone.
Armed with these tiny chips, smartphones are about to graduate from smart to downright brainiac status. Right now, only about 34 million phones have NFC, but some experts think that number will blow past 100 million in 2012 [source: USA Today]. Keep reading and you'll see how NFC phones and other gadgets could transform your tech-driven life.