We're excited about NFC, with all its wallet-replacing, house-unlocking, Wi-Fi-password-remembering potential. But NFC does require a hardware chip, and that means we're at least a few years from real adoption. The recently announced Zoosh is a wireless protocol that can handle many of the features we're so anxiously awaiting in NFC--but without any new hardware, you could theoretically get Zoosh on your smartphone with a mere app download.
You can read our full primer on NFC here, but as a basic summary, NFC is a short-range wireless tech similar to RFID, in which small chunks of information can be passed among devices like smartphones and all sorts of other appliances like point-of-sale units, subway entry points, and even less mechanical items like movie posters. There's only one major NFC-enabled smartphone--the Samsung Nexus S--in the U.S. at the moment, and the infrastructure is in its infancy, but other countries have robust NFC or NFC-type setups and all signs point to a North American embrace as well.