Google's new window decals may help travelers

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Google hopes that the next new thing in smarttphones may be something called "near-field communications," or NFC, technology. It's a way for a cell phone to download data from a sticker that's about four inches apart from it.

In December, the company began giving businesses in Portland, Ore., stickers that say "Recommended on Google." If you own an NFC-enabled smartphone, such as a Nokia C7 or a Samsung Nexus S, you will be able to tap your cell phone on the decal and download information about the business, such as customer reviews. Your phone could also automatically download virtual coupons good for discounts.

Google doesn't own NFC technology. But the company's support is powerful, along with the support of cell phone makers like Nokia and Samsung. Earlier this year, three major wireless carriers—AT&T;, T-Mobile, and Verizon—announced their support for an NFC payment system that would let customers pay for items with their mobile phones instead of using physical credit cards. It won't be a surprise if all high end smartphones have the technology by the end of 2011.

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