Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mobeam: What's it mean?

This week Mobeam,, announced a deal with P&G to provide the light beam transmissions from smartphones that can be read on the standard point of sale barcode laser scanners. This technology will allow for multiple coupons to be read at the point of sales instantaneously; allowing for control of coupon redemption; and the ability to know individual users, and the time and place of purchase. The coupons can come from scanned QR codes, mobile and internet web sites, or emails and other electronic messages. P&G can integrate this with their web site and allow people to redeem coupons with their phones. It certainly puts more power back in the hands of brands and could potentially do this for retailers, or newspapers who want to offer coupon wallets on mobile phones.

According to Mobeam all of the major handset manufacturers are installing the Mobeam software into their phones as a way to make the phone more valuable to the consumer. They are doing this on all new smartphones starting in 2012 so the use of this capability will take a coupon of years to become a mainstream behavior.

Right now the company is focusing on low hanging fruit. According to the Mobeam press release the coupon market is a $3.7 Billion annual market with 300 million coupons scanned each year in North America.

The other interesting aspect of this technology is that it can be used for ticket entrance into sports arenas and also be used for payments. This brings up the point of what will be the primary point of sale payment method for mobile phones. Will it be NFC, light transmission, magnetic strip readers (like Square), photo credit card scanners (like Jumio) or mobile web purchasing (like Paypal)? It is really going to depend on:

• Ease of use
• Security
• The existing cost to upgrade existing equipment

Clearly the technology which gets a strong foothold in the market will have a momentum advantage.

My prediction is that we will see a variety of these different technologies in handsets and working on different applications depending on: the payment, redemption or access situation; the need for secure access; and the need to upgrade existing POS or access equipment

There are many different air interface technologies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and ZigBee. Each has some overlap, but serves different applications and devices better. This is likely to the case for payment, access and redemption capabilities on a handset. However, the gating factor in adoption will be how easy it is for consumers to use.

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