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London, UK
– A museum is perhaps the last place you’d expect to find the most cutting-edge mobile tech of the last two years. But a visit to the groundbreaking Museum of London will soon convince you that NFC (Near Field Communication) is perfectly at home in the 1660s. I’m greeted by communications chief Antony Robbins who waves a Nokia fitted with NFC at me. “NFC turns your phone into a museum in your pocket,” he says as he swipes the device on a tag next to one of the historic exhibits which date from the Great Fire of London in 1666 to the present day.

Within a second an alert pops up asking if I want to be taken to a site which will tell me more about the amazingly wide gown worn by the Lord Mayor of London’s daughter Anne Fanshawe in 1753. Which is useful, as I’d have assumed it was an outlandish frock knocked up by Vivienne Westwood in the 1980s.

Soon I’m soaking up all kinds of extra information from the Museum’s website thanks to the NFC tag. And we’re only talking kilobytes of data here, so it’s not going to make a massive dent in your data allowance, unless you start accessing video content.

The Museum of London, close to Barbican tube station, was re-launched by Sir Michael Caine in May 2010, with the opening of £20million worth of Galleries of Modern London.

As 47-year-old Londoner Antony Robbins, from Wimbledon, adds: “Since then, the museum has gone from good to great.

“The use of the latest technology and the desire to incorporate it has made this place a magnet for firms like Nokia who want to test the latest technology.”

The UK Nokia team has set up the NFC experiment at the museum to showcase just one aspect of NFC, as a tool for conveying web-based audio-visual information direct to your personal handset.

So no more extra outlay for one of those audio guides you see museum visitors glued to. And no more crowding round that little plaque with all the info on. Just one tap of your phone and it’s all there.

“It’s an important and innovative new partnership. Working with Nokia, a leading global brand in telecoms and digital technology puts the Museum of London a the forefront of the digital agenda,” adds Mr Robbins.

“And we’re are helping to test out NFC for Nokia.”

As I wander around, I demo the technology to a few of the visitors.

Justin, in his late twenties, from Los Angeles, was very impressed. “That is very cool and very useful,” he says.

Lianne, from Montreal, Canada, looked amazed and says: “I wouldn’t go around the whole museum using that. But, if there was something I was really interested in, I would use it.

Liam, from Dublin, Republic of Ireland says: “That’s great, but it’ll probably be a while before I can get it on something like this.”

Pulling a battered old pay-as-you-go phone out of his pocket, he adds: “I’m not interested in those fancy phones. I paid £20 for this and i just use it for making calls.”

But from the museum visitors I meet, he is in the minority. As many as eighty per cent of Brits will have smartphones by Christmas this year.

And smart people like Antony Robbins want to make the most of that.

“Firms like Nokia are helping us take this to the Streets all over the world,” he says referring to one of  his museum’s apps called Soundtrack to London, available free at the Ovi store.

“Another, called Streetmuseum has already been downloaded 300,000 times in total.

“We want to reach out to young people who might think museums are boring,” he adds. “One way to interest them, is to engage them via technology they understand and use every day.”

For more about NFC and to see if your phone has it, go here. To have a look at Nokia’s latest NFC handsets go here

Image credit: dirac 3000