Wireless Wonders

No news, just comment about mobile phones and services, from a veteran practitioner...3G, GPRS, WAP, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc...

Thursday, March 31, 2005

NFC proximity sensing in shops...idea #41/100...

The potential of Near-Field Communication (NFC) is very exciting indeed. A couple of nights ago when I walked into Sainsburys to do my weekly grocery shopping, I found myself yet again thinking about my mobile within the shopping experience.

Accessing product information in the shop still seems like a good idea to me. One of my earlier thoughts was the potential for shops to provide their latest offers information via an RSS feed. Of course, aggregators are already cropping up to do just this, like Real Simple Shopping (nice abbreviation!)

It is a non-trivial problem to walk into a shop and automatically sense its proximity via the mobile device. There are many ways to address the problem, but I am starting to think that NFC is going to emerge as a prime candidate. Simply by walking into the shop and touching the phone against an entry beacon, it is possible to direct content onto the phone. That could be a URL, for example, pointing to an RSS feed.

There seems another possibility...

Could the NFC "swipe" be used as a pairing mechanism into Bluetooth/WiFi points throughout the shop? These could then be used to access more content without incurring any data costs. It might also provide the means for wireless bar-code scanning via a mobile, tapping directly into the store's inventory system.

Were such a mechanism provided, would the shops implement their own walled garden? Pricing comparison tools, like Dulance (which also has RSS), might not go down too well. Although, Mazda in the US found that allowing pricing comparison in their garages (they provide free Internet cafes) enabled them to get the sale. They made their upside on upgrades and options.

Can we imagine a future in which the shopper is able to make pricing comparisons and then enter into an automated bidding arrangement with the shop - on the spot - to get a better deal? For example, Acme Washing Powder is 20% cheaper elsewhere, so the shop offers some alternative at an apparently similar value, such as 2 packs of Brand X at some attractive discount, or some other deal that is essentially an upside for the shop.

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