The biggest thing going for beacons as a payments vehicle is that is seems to be embraced by the biggest stakeholder – the retailer – and that it is an experience that was conceived first for shopping innovation. There are a bunch of parameter comparisons between NFC and Beacons but those are just parameters. In this article we wanted to discuss with examples how 6 Companies that had a NFC roadmap already in place (including implementation in some cases) started going for Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons.
Beacons at Macy’s:
On 20th November 2013, Redwood City, Calif. based Shopkick announced a partnership with Macy’s to deploy iBeacon transmitters or ‘ShopBeacons’ throughout the 155 year old departmental stores chain’s in Manhattan and San Francisco. ShopBeacons will enable Macy’s to track the customers movements and provide different offers. Interesting to note is that Macy's had a NFC register roadmap that it was working on. It will be interesting to see the changing priorities.
ShopBeacons App lets users flag items they want and then alerts them in store to offers on those products and others that the user might like.
Powa Technologies walked away from NFC to Beacons:
PowaTag, an innovative point and click mobile commerce app for iOS and Android, had launched in the UK and US with 240 leading retail brands on board. But the app creator has gone with low-energy Bluetooth Beacon technology rather than Near Field Communications (NFC). The PowaTag solution enables consumers to purchase items immediately on their phone after seeing them in a shop window or on their television by opening the app, pointing the phone's camera at a picture of the item and clicking.
“There's a lot of resistance from merchants, the jury's still out on NFC. Apple has not put NFC into its phones and that's always been a problem for NFC as an adoption strategy. Will it be successful? Maybe, but I don't think so," said Dan Wagner, CEO of Powa Technologies. In August, 2013 the company picked up $76 Million in funding from a single investor as part of the Series A round of funding. Dan Wagner, CEO of Powa Technologies has also put in $20 Million before raising $76 Million in funds.
Apple said no to NFC for BLE and iBeacons:
On December 6, Apple surprised everyone by starting the use of iBeacons solution across its 254 US retail stores. Many in the industry were expecting Apple to put NFC chip in its iPhone 5S and 5C but it didn't. Despite the fact that it has some amazing patents around NFC use.
Apple beacon on the other hand will allow the customer to choose and receive notifications as and when she goes near the store. This notification includes new promotional schemes, and loyalty offers for the customers. Currently the technology works on the latest Apple software and hardware, users with devices running on iOS7 supports Bluetooth 4.0. Another feature in testing is the ability for a customer to be notified of a repair being ready to pickup if they are in or near the Apple Store. Many other uses will likely arrive farther into the future.
Inmarket chooses iBeacons over NFC:
InMarket began turning on iPhone-compatible sensors at Giant Eagle and Safeway stores in Cleveland, Ohio, Seattle, Wash., and San Francisco, Calif. InMarket specializes in location-based advertisements, and using Apple's iBeacon platform, the company says that it will be able to target ads for frequent grocery store shoppers.
“This has the potential to disrupt the retail experience as we know it. Think about all of the benefits of online shopping, but applied to the real world. Shopping list reminders, specific coupons tailored to things you like, eventually mobile checkout. We're in the top of the first inning right now with iBeacon, so the possibilities are very exciting,” said Todd Dipaola, CEO of InMarket. "NFC requires users to literally take their phone out, turn it on, and tap it against a target to activate. iBeacons can reach a user with their phone in their pocket anywhere in a store. This allows shoppers to physically browse the store as normal and take advantages of new features like a shopping list reminder when they enter. Mobile to Mortar will be compatible with all BLE devices including Android.”
Google adds Support for BLE, Continues to roll out support for NFC:
Google has been mainly focused on NFC from the beginning, now again the same but with the HCE approach and it didn’t add platform support for BLE until the release of version 4.3. Lot of the apps that rely on BLE couldn’t release the apps for Android phones. Some Android OEM vendors recognized the need and rolled out their own implementations. Google finally listened to the demand and made it part of Android 4.3. This is a major WIN for Beacons as BLE becomes available across iOS and Android smartphones.