The Green Sheet Online Edition
November 23, 2009 • Issue 09:11:02
As near field communication (NFC)-enabled cell phones are being rolled out, mobile payments solutions provider ViVOtech Inc. is helping to bring NFC technology to market quicker by making it compatible with existing phones.
The company has partnered with technology providers Tetherball LLC in the United States and ZAPA Technology in Europe to roll out radio frequency identification (RFID)-enabled chips that take the form of a sticker and can be affixed to the back of essentially any cell phone to give it NFC capabilities.
The chip-embedded stickers are supplied by Tetherball and ZAPA and are operating on ViVOtech's NFC platform. They are called Tetherball Tags in the United States and ZAPA Tags in Europe.
"[Before now] for a phone to become an [NFC] payment device, it needed to be an NFC phone, which needs to have a contactless device built in," said Mohammad Kahn, founder and President of ViVOtech. "But people are saying, 'I'm not going to wait.' So they're putting this sticker on the back of the phone that enables an existing phone to become a payment device."
Almost any phone-enabled
According to Kahn, the only thing required of a phone to be NFC-enabled is that it has a text messaging platform.
The RFID-enabled stickers, coupled with the use of NFC acceptance terminals (of which Kahn said there are about 500,000 in the United States), allow merchants and consumers to do two things. One is to make NFC payments by loading money onto the NFC chips as one would with a prepaid card. The second is to engage in loyalty and marketing programs through the use of short message service (SMS) communication.
On the marketing side, merchants can send to consumers text messages that are tailored to individual preferences, based on consumers' spending histories.
According to Kahn, because the contactless terminals connect to both NFC converted phones and to ViVOtech's server at the back end of the network, merchants who accept NFC payments can receive information about buyers' spending histories from ViVOtech based on the data called up with shoppers' phone numbers. Using that information, the merchant can advertise to customers' preferences in various ways, including with electronic coupons.
"You sign up for a loyalty program and give your phone number so a merchant can send SMS messages or offers or coupons based on who you are," Kahn said. "To use those coupon offers, all you have to do is tap the cell phone with the sticker on it onto the contactless reader, and the mobile coupon offers basically sit in the back-end server," Kahn said.
The stickers can also be used for loyalty programs in which customers are rewarded automatic loyalty points with each purchase at a given merchant location. "You're not going to leave your loyalty card home anymore," Kahn said. "You're going to have it with you all the time, it will be more accessible and you're going to use it more.
"For acquirers and ISOs, they've been trying to provide these loyalty-based points, and now they can provide all these additional mobile marketing services. And that's going to produce interesting opportunities in mobile payments."
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