Almost! On March 14, 2013, Samsung Mobile announced that the Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone will be embedded with mobeam’s patented technology. The mobile device is expected to hit shelves sometime in April.
Mobeam® solves for the failure of mobile phones to interact with retailer’s point of sale (POS) systems. Existing red-laser scanners cannot “see” barcodes displayed on a mobile phone screen. Mobeam overcomes this technical barrier with its patented light based communications (LBC) technology and software for mobile handset manufacturers that enables mobile phones to interact with existing POS retail technology by transforming a barcode into a beam of light that laser scanners can “see”, all without any changes required to the retailer’s POS systems.
At present, there is no way for mobile phones to use 1D barcode based content – by far the most prevalent barcode symbology used in commerce – with the existing scanning technologies. This technology limitation prevents the mobilization of coupons, loyalty cards, gift cards, tickets and other commerce elements that rely on barcodes. In order for this content to work at what mobeam estimates are the more than 165 million laser scanners in use today around the world, the mobeam® technology allows you to “mobeam” your barcoded content, using a light source already present on your phone, to the scanner used in retail.
It is a simple matter of physics – phone screens today are high definition, high resolution displays intended for watching movies, playing games and viewing photos. This high quality prevents the existing scanner technology from “seeing” the image from the screen. The reflective shiny glass, backlit displays and polarizing filters in the layered glass make it impossible for the laser to reflect the barcode to the sensor in the scanner.
Mobeam® offers redemption! Consumers have no shortage of digital content coming to their mobile phones, but using content such as coupons, tickets and gift cards requires people to use a method other than mobile to redeem this content at the point of sale. How valuable is a coupon sent to your phone if it must be printed to be used? Mobeam fills this significant mobile commerce gap by enabling mobile devices to display content that will work at retail POS. The coupon has gone largely unchanged over the past 100 years. Mobilizing the coupon not only delivers significant value to consumers, but adds the ability for enhanced analytics, targeting and tracking which provides significant value to retailers and consumer packaged goods (CPG) producers, among many other players in the mobile commerce value chain.
Mobeam® uses an onboard light source already embedded into a mobile phone to “beam” barcode data directly into the sensor on existing POS laser scanner. The light source can be any LED already on the phone, such as a message waiting indicator, a charge indicator or the infrared LED used in proximity sensors. A “mobeamed” barcode tricks the scanner into thinking that it has “seen” data reflected off of a printed barcode.
Exactly the same thing as when a barcode is scanned from a product package, coupon, loyalty card or gift card – information transfers from the barcode to the retail POS system. With a mobeam-enabled phone, when it’s time to redeem a coupon or use other barcode information, you simply point the phone’s light source to the scanner, and instantly the information transfers to the retail POS system. The only real difference is that instead of keeping wads of paper or plastic cards, you’ll store them in an app on your phone, or even use them from emails.
You need to have a mobile device manufactured with mobeam inside. The first mobeam-enabled phones will be available to consumers this spring.
Though an individual cannot add mobeam® to an existing device, adding mobeam to new devices is very easy for manufacturers. Mobeam technology does not require manufacturers to change the physical design of any device; what they already have on the drawing board will work with mobeam.
NFC uses electromagnetic radio fields to transmit a signal containing data into a special receiver. Increasingly these receivers are being added to POS payment terminals, but the kind of ubiquity that laser scanners now enjoy is still many years away according to nearly all NFC forecasts. Mobeam uses light to transmit similar or the same data into scanners currently installed at all major retail locations. Today an NFC-enabled phone has significant limitations on where it can be used for mobile commerce; a mobeam-enabled phone will work everywhere.
It’s important to note that retail POS technology communicates with two different backend systems: inventory and payments. The typical NFC POS terminal will be used for payments, and will interact with the customer’s bank to send payment information to the retailer. Today mobeam is focusing on enabling the inventory system that accepts coupons, closed loop gift cards (issued by the retailer), loyalty cards and tickets.
That’s right. For NFC to work at retailers, new payment terminals with NFC receivers must be added to the stores’ POS infrastructure. Before making that type of upgrade however, retailers are waiting for a critical mass of NFC phones to be available in the market. These dual conditions mean that NFC is still years away from being widely deployed. Mobeam® works today because it requires no changes to retail POS technology or database systems.
Mobeam® works with all laser scanners including the familiar flatbed (supermarket-style), countertop (like those found in convenience stores) and handheld scanners. Mobeam’s technology also addresses other scanning and data transmission technologies available at point of sale. Simultaneous with mobeaming barcode information to a laser scanner, mobeam-enabled phones can display 2D barcodes for optical image scanners and invoke an NFC transmission.
The mobeam technology was originally developed by Ecrio, a mobile communications company, but has since been spun out into its own company. With the backing of additional investors, mobeam’s team of retail, CPG and technology veterans are developing the technology and putting in place the business development relationships for mobeam’s mobile commerce technology and services. Visit http://mobeam.com/about to learn more about the mobeam team.
Major investors in mobeam include yet2ventures, Samsung Ventures, Mitsui, DFJ Athena and a long list of individual technology investors. Visit http://mobeam.com/about/ to lean more about mobeam’s investors.
Mobeam® has a total of 13 patents issued in the U.S. and internationally, with 10 more pending.
With a mobile phone in nearly every pocket or purse around the world there is no ignoring that mobile technology is pervasive and is working its way into all aspects of our daily lives. Shopping is no different, and every player along the value chain stands to benefit from a move to purely mobile coupons. A purely digital coupon ecosystem will provide significant benefit to key stakeholders:
CONSUMERS: Consumers will be able to collect and manage coupons received electronically and redeem them using their phones at the point of sale. Currently, coupons received electronically either have to be printed to be redeemed, downloaded to a loyalty card or a checkout clerk has to manually enter in a coupon code. Not only will a shopper using a purely digital coupon benefit, so will all the shoppers standing behind them in line.
RETAILERS: This partnership will enable North American retailers to accelerate the adoption of purely digital coupons, without any hardware changes at POS. Because coupons will be submitted and redeemed digitally, purely digital coupons will increase efficiency and reduce overall costs.
CPG COMPANIES: Purely digital coupons also provide more extensive analytic capabilities, allowing better measurement of campaign effectiveness, reducing coupon fraud, and driving efficiencies in distribution, purchase validation and processing.
In December 2011, mobeam announced a strategic partnership with P&G, one of the world’s leading coupon distributors, aimed at exploring and testing a new, highly efficient method for consumers to redeem – and retailers to accept – coupons at the point of sale, leveraging the mobeam technology. The two companies also developed a partnership through P&G’s open innovation Connect+Develop program, designed to bring leading innovation into P&G and share P&G innovation with others.
In August 2012, mobeam announced its strategic partnership with ProLogic, one of the industry’s leading coupon processors and clearinghouses, to integrate their technologies to close the gap that exists between the digital coupons available today on consumer mobile devices and their redemption at point of sale, including the back-end processing by retailers.
Adding mobeam’s light based communications technology inside handsets allows them to work universally at retail POS. Mobeam-enabled phones overcome the significant technology barrier that prevents mobile phones from interacting with laser barcode scanners. These mobeam-enabled phones will bring tremendous mobile commerce capabilities to consumers and will work universally at retailers around the world on day 1.
Mobeam not only enables marketers to pay for redemption, which is a significant step forward from the pay for distribution model in use today, by mobilizing what has up to now been largely a paper-based industry; mobeam is also adding significant analytical value. Mobile coupons will have far superior targeting and tracking capabilities, significantly enhancing the ability to use coupons to introduce new products, convince consumers to try products, engender repeat purchases and attract new customers to existing product lines. CPG companies can know exactly who is redeeming coupons, reducing the fraud that exists in today’s redemption process. Mobilizing barcode content will not only maintain the importance of this content as the world increasingly abandons paper for digital media, it will grow its use and importance to consumers, and the return on investment for CPG brands.
Many people have had the experience of handing a phone displaying a coupon that was received via email to a store sales associate, only to watch that associate scan and rescan, over and over, to no avail. That’s because barcoded data displayed on mobile phones doesn’t work with laser scanners. This not only frustrates both the employee and the patron, it also frustrates all the customers waiting in line. Mobeam will bring this frustration to an end. Very little training is required; the only thing to know is how to point the phone’s mobeam light source toward the scanner.
Mobeam works with your existing technology. No upgrades are necessary. You’re already prepared to start accepting mobeamed coupons, gift cards, loyalty cards and the other barcoded information you’re already accepting.
All content delivered via mobeam is carefully managed – authentication, verification and tracking are enabled by mobeam’s software.
A key reason why brands and retailers will want to use mobile coupons, loyalty cards and gift cards is specifically because of the enhanced analytics that will be available to them. Already mobeam is able to track and report the Who, What, Where and When of mobile commerce activity using mobeam technology, all available by opt-in and with the permission of the consumer.
Rob Daly, mobeam’s vice president of business development, handles strategic partnerships for using mobeam technology. Contact Rob at email@example.com to discuss your idea.