Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Koichi Tagawa: A Q&A with the Former NFC Forum Chair
Dec 13, 2022

Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Koichi Tagawa: A Q&A with the Former NFC Forum Chair

You can call Koichi Tagawa the “Father of the NFC Forum.” 

He helped found the NFC Forum and served as Chair of the Board for almost two decades. His drive and dedication made the NFC Forum thrive, and helped turn NFC into one of the most pervasive technologies on the planet, impacting the lives of billions daily.  For his many accomplishments, he was honored with the NFC Forum Lifetime Achievement Award. This is the first and only time this award has been bestowed on an individual.

We recently sat down with Tagawa-san to find out what excites him about the NFC Forum’s future and how it all came to be.

How did you become involved with the NFC Forum?

I became involved at the very beginning, but it wasn’t necessarily intentional. I will openly admit that I was not a visionary for NFC technology. I was the beneficiary of circumstance. I was asked by my boss, Sony’s CTO, to investigate NFC technology with the idea of forming an industry association around the technology.  When I reported back that the appropriate group inside Sony didn’t have the resources to participate in the NFC Forum, he suggested that I should become involved. The next twenty years are history . . .

What were the early days of the NFC Forum like?

When the NFC Forum was first formed, I made many presentations around the world talking about what NFC is. The questions I got from the media in the early days were very challenging , mainly asking where are the NFC services? Where are NFC devices?

Then in the next decade, smartphones became more easily available with NFC and NFC usage grew. This led to wearables and other technologies, and NFC started to grow rapidly and aggressively.  Now, I had answers for all those reporters’ questions!

What was your chair style like in the NFC Forum’s early days?

When I was the NFC Forum’s vice-chair, I had a strong feeling that these kinds of organizations work best when made up of competing companies working together. So, in the beginning, we decided to have people in the forum work together and share their visions and expectations to produce standards or specifications that most or all people would agree to. I don’t consider myself to be a visionary of NFC technology, as it was these companies and their collaboration that allowed the NFC Forum to thrive in the long-term.

Looking at our member organizations now, NFC technology is much more popular today than when I became involved. So, while the NFC Forum is strong in its member pool, we can always improve and continue to innovate, and I expect the leadership to lead our members in the right direction. 

What do you think was the most meaningful contribution you made to the NFC Forum?

There are two things I would like to mention. One is my background as a consumer electronics employee at Sony, where much of my job involved making consumers excited about a product. When I became involved in the NFC Forum, I used this consumer experience with whatever use case and specifications the NFC Forum developed. I tried to look at it from a consumer perspective.

Second, when working with member organizations, I focused on a philosophy of teamwork. The NFC Forum is made up of the global experts in the technology, and when these experts work together, they feel ownership of what they are working on. Ultimately, I tried to be a person who would be driving people to participate and work together. I am very proud of this accomplishment.

Wireless charging is the latest advancement in the world of NFC technology. What is your opinion of wireless charging?

It’s clear that wireless charging is growing, and I think it is something that will continue to be very important. A continuation of these efforts around wireless charging is important to the NFC Forum’s growth. The importance of the user experience can’t be undersold.  In my opinion, what comes next is continuing efforts to make daily users know that it is NFC technology that is allowing for operability and features such as wireless charging.

Did you ever imagine that NFC technology would be this successful?

Honestly, I could have never expected that the NFC Forum would have been where it is today when I first started twenty years ago. I credit the members who had the vision to make this all a reality and appreciate their hard work and contributions to the NFC Forum.  We couldn’t have done it without them.