Potential of the Field

October 21, 2011

The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls

                                                   … Paul Simon  –  The Sounds of Silence 

The genius of synching the twin attributes of captive and bored potential customers standing in front of a store with an effective, eye-catching display and virtual inventory, showcases how marketers in South Korea figured out a new clever way to extract money from people.

As you can see from the video, the smart phone – or mobile device – is a key instrument in this exchange. And as cool as the virtual store is, the technology for processing the transaction (QR or Quick Response code) is kind of old school – it’s been around since 1994 and is used extensively in manufacturing and, more recently, advertising.

This year, those who bring you newer and better are bringing you newer and better through something called NFC or Near Field Communication.

NFC allows your mobile device to to communicate with other nearby devices. That means soon you will be able  to pay at store checkout with less muss and fuss.  Or enter a transit system without a fare card. No more swiping. No more cash. No more scanning the QR code. Once you give the OK – your device communicates with the store – the transaction is accomplished.

How quickly will it roll out?  Well the chips are already in many smart phones. But the readers are expensive – so there is the issue of how to divvy up the transaction fees.  I have confidence we will see NFC blossom, though.  Anything that makes it easier to extract money from consumers usually gets implemented over time.

Think more enabled virtual reality.

And real time personalized location-based daily deals.

And loyalty programs. Lots of loyalty programs. Marketers know the easiest person to sell to is the person they have already sold to. So as you enter a store you, as a loyal customer will be offered inducements based on your purchase level and behavior.  A kind of Klout for Konsumers.

The real potential – the secret sauce – is location-based, personal preference opt-in marketing. Sprinkle in your online shopping histories, gently blend with your in-store purchase behavior – toss with saved attributes and preferences and voila – you are served to the commercial enterprise, on a silver platter – identified for your interaction possibilities.

So, as you stroll down a street, you will start receiving inducements of various kinds, depending on your level of opt-in. Then, as you walk into stores, your NFC chip will identify you.  Your drink can be ready.  Your name entered on the reservation list. You be given coupons to redeem based on past purchases.

You can already use the technology to exchange business cards. Future uses – how about your phone as car key, entertainment source, seat and steering wheel adjuster or car locator in a crowded parking lot. Or getting into your house or office and adjust the micro-environments, you encounter based on your preferences, such as turning lights on and off or office or room temperature.

How about in healthcare?  Your NFC phone can become the portal to transmitting short or long term health data streams to your doctor.  Just seen the doctor? Maybe you need to monitor your temperature or glucose level or heart rate.  Wireless devices that sense these activities can talk to your NFC equipped phone and the data can be streamed to the doctor in real time. Of course other devices can be the node for that kind of activity, but your phone will allow you to track all your health inputs (from exercise machines talking to it, to pills and prescription medications to wireless medical devices to foods you eat) keep track of them and stream those inputs to whomever is interested.

The issues of loss, theft, privacy and hacking are there – just as they are for any cloud based system. But just as surely as mobile is the future, it is inevitable that NFC is one other way your smart phone or tablet will make itself indispensable.


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