NFC in a printer? The Brother MFC-J870dw lets you touch and print


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Near-field communication (NFC)—the ability to touch two devices together to exchange data—is becoming commonplace in mobile devices, and now it’s appearing in one of the most non-mobile technologies out there: a printer. Yes, a printer.

Brother International on Tuesday announced the MFC-J870dw, a $150 color inkjet multifunction for SOHO users. Printers in this price range are usually run-of-the-mill products, but the MFC-J870dw’s built-in NFC connectivity is unique among inkjets. Touch an NFC-equipped device to the MFC-J870dw, and you should be able to print from it. Other nice features on this model include ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity, automatic duplexing, and the ability to print on specially coated CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray media. The two-year warranty is nice, too.

The Brother MFC-J870dw would be just like any other mid-priced color inkjet multifunction, but the NFC connectivity is unique—for now.

A printer with NFC isn’t as bizarre as you might think. Consider that many of the SOHO users for which this printer is intended will probably also have the smartphones, laptops, and tablets where NFC has the greatest presence. So why not have a printer that can join the party?

The catch with NFC, as with another instant connectivity technology that’s come and gone—infrared, anyone?—is that it’s great only if enough devices have it. Otherwise, it’s just sitting around, looking for something to do.

Sony SmartWatch 2 Sony
Sony’s smartwatch has NFC, but it needs to find other NFC-equipped devices to play with.

Major electronics companies like Samsung (which just announced a line of NFC-equipped lasers) and Sony are touting their growing lists of NFC-equipped devices, showing off exchanges of trinkets like photos, music, and videos. But NFC has yet to find its essential purpose, such as a payment vehicle. With Brother’s announcement of the MFC-J870dw, printers are joining the search for NFC’s killer app.

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