Meet the Monkey Awards Nominees – Competitive Advantage Through Technology

This week we’re looking at another three categories for the Monkeys and are starting with Competitive Advantage Through Technology. This is a real ‘buzz’ category and is awarded to those ‘smaller’ companies who use contactless technology to leap forward and get an edge on their competition. Proving once and for all that you don’t have to be a giant corporation to make the most from this technology. The four finalists are:

  • AMT Coffee (UK)
  • NFC Trial at Sheetz petrol stations – Wright Express (US)
  • NFC Trial by Citibank in Bangalore – ViVOtech (India)
  • Eagle Cards – Morehead State University (US)

AMT Coffee (UK) is another coffee house that have embraced contactless technology. The UK coffee chain expanding into Europe, focusing on Fair Trade produce and have 57 locations across the UK.
AMT Coffee previously did not accept credit/debit cards and decided to use contactless as an opportunity to introduce card payments, using the new GPRS terminal. They have all sites now live with contactless and appear to be enthusiastic about the technology and are now looking into ways that they can promote the fact that they accept contactless payments.

All of their outlets are in key commuter locations, being mainly in bus or train stations, so is the ideal scenario where someone needs to grab a coffee quickly before their bus or train leaves. They have set up a Twitter site and received some positive comments: “I’m fed up of the ATM in Oxford station hardly ever working – I’m going cashless. At least I can buy my coffee with payWave” “The contactless payments are fab.”

After a 6-location trial AMT Coffee rolled out the contactless units to all of their 57 UK locations. The trial lasted 6-8 weeks and a number of factors were considered: speed of service not suffering, cash in transit, cost per transactions versus cash, usage of cards and the growth of usage and finally, average transaction value. AMT Coffee has shown that they were happy with the results and has implemented targets for the entire business to implement the card facility. They will be introducing an offer for all customers who ‘wave-and-pay’ this May, with the contactless symbol clearly shown on signage in shops to encourage users.

Next up is a US entry – Wright Express for their NFC trail at the Sheetz petrol stations. But first a little background info. Sheetz has more than 350 locations throughout Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio and North Carolina in the USA, that provide food, beverages and fuel to its customers. Wright Express is a leading global provider of payment processing and information management services. Wright Express captures and combines transaction information from its proprietary network with specialized analytical tools and purchasing control capabilities in a suite of solutions that enable fleets to manage their vehicles more effectively. The Company’s charge cards are used by commercial and government fleets to purchase fuel and maintenance services for approximately 4.6 million vehicles.

Wright Express was nominated due to their innovative use of NFC in an environment not usually associated with mobile phones and in showing a real interest in contactless and helping to drive awareness in their market sector

Wright Express explained that the purpose to the trial was to test NFC (Near Field Communications) and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technologies through a mobile device to purchase fuel. The trail was undertaken to understand the technology and to prepare for the future in the event fueling locations reach critical mass with RFID readers based on a high demand from consumers for mobile payments.

This mobile payment test ran from January 12 through May 1, 2009. The test was not a product launch, but rather an R&D project to determine how the technology functions, and how quickly Wright Express could enter the market once mobile payments reached the level of demand by the marketplace to make it a practical payment device for Wright Express.

Sheetz was selected as a partner in this test since it has the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) readers at all of its pumps and in each of its stores for contactless payments. Wright Express issues fleet cards and processes Sheetz private label fleet transactions. Two of Sheetz Business Advantage fleet card customers were selected to participate in this test. Each of the fleets’ drivers received an NFC Nokia cell phone with an eWallet application loaded on the phones that contained the Sheetz Business Advantage card. To make payment for fuel, the drivers simply selected the picture of the Sheetz BA card from the electronic wallet and put the phone near (close proximity) the RFID reader at the pump or inside the store. The transaction flowed through the network and to Wright Express as it does when using a piece of plastic, but much faster.

ViVOtech and Wright Express started building a relationship approximately a year prior to conducting mobile payment test. There had been many discussions about experimenting with mobile payments in a commercial environment. Most of ViVOtech’s previous mobile tests were consumer related. ViVOtech provided Wright Express with the OTA issuing server and access to the OTA control server, and Nokia 6131NFC enabled mobile phones and the ViVOwallet license.

One interesting feature of this project was the element of using your mobile phone at a petrol station (remember all those ‘No Mobile’ warning stickers around the pumps? This is Wright Express reaction and findings.

“This project is what the industry needed to encourage future tests at convenience stores selling fuel. There has been a myth that cell phone usage at a fuelling location could cause explosions, but even though this has been proven untrue, it has held back the desire to test for fear of liability. The following are some facts:

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association has said, “There is no evidence whatsoever that a wireless phone has ever caused ignition or explosion at a station anywhere in the world. Wireless phones don’t cause gas stations to blow up.”
The American Petroleum Institute notes, “We can find no evidence of someone using a cell phone causing any kind of accident, no matter how small, at a gas station anywhere in the world.”
In fact, creating a fire from a cell has not been demonstrated experimentally that it’s even possible – which a 2004 broadcast of The Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters program confirmed.
It is unlikely that cell phone batteries could ignite gasoline fumes, given that they are the same voltage as automobile batteries (12V D.C.) but deliver far less current. Likewise, cellular phone “ringers” do not produce electricity — they produce audio tones that simulate the sound of a ringing telephone.
Reality is that static electricity causes explosions and fires.

Sheetz was willing to stand-up and accept the liability to test this new technology. With announcements made at PCATS (Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards) and the subsequent number of news articles that were written about this test, one can assume that the message was delivered loud and clear.

Our third contestant is Citi Growth Ventures in Bangalore who are running an NFC pilot along with their partner, ViVOtech.

Citibank ran an NFC trial in Bangalore for 26 weeks, starting in June 2009 and a whitepaper written by Edgar Dunn giving thorough details about the pilot can be downloaded here.

Citi was nominated for this category because it was a reasonably large scale pilot with a good cross-section of the public trying out NFC for the first time. It shows a strong partnership between all the players and it help gives Citibank an innovative image

In their own words, Citi said that, ‘the “Tap and Pay” mobile proximity payments pilot project in Bangalore, using Near Field Communications (NFC) technology, represented a watershed event in the recent intensive history of Mobile Financial Services.”

It was the largest pilot program of its kind to date. It identified positive consumer demand, reliability of available technology, and growth in purchase volumes. It demonstrated that with confirmed commitment and investment from industry stakeholders, mobile NFC proximity payments have the potential to generate growth in payments, create value for stakeholders, and help convert cash transactions to electronic payments.

The project was envisioned and planned by Citi’s global Growth Ventures unit in partnership with Citibank India who led the marketing and communications program and offered the product proposition to eligible customers.

Eligible Citibank credit cardholders could purchase an NFC enabled Nokia 6212 handset from participating Nokia shops where store staff assisted them in setting up the service so that they could walk out of the store with a “payment ready” mobile device. The mobile payment infrastructure deployed by ViVOtech allows pilot participants in India to easily download OTA a personal Citibank MasterCard Credit card to their mobile phones.

Cardholders also enjoy promotional offers by tapping their NFC phones on smart posters, and receive coupons in seconds. When ready for a purchase, participants just tap their mobile phones at ViVOpay contactless payment readers to redeem coupons and make payments with credit or debit cards.

For this pilot, ViVOtech provided a complete NFC mobile payment and marketing solution – including the following software, hardware, and services components:

  • Citi Wallet Software distributed with Nokia 6212 NFC mobile phone
  • OTA & Trusted Service Management Software (Control Server) installed in Vodafone data centre
  • OTA card provisioning software (Issuer Server) installed in Citi India data centre
  • Mobile promotion coupon and smart poster management software
  • Smart posters with ViVOtag technology installed various location in shopping area and merchants
  • NFC contactless readers installed at merchant locations
  • Local support during the trial period

Finally, we have another entry from the US – the Eagle Card – Morehead State University (US)

Morehead State University in Morehead, KY, is a long-time user of chip card technology to serve its community. The University implemented a Schlumberger contact chip solution on its EagleCard in 2001 for unattended transactions such as vending, laundry payment, computer lab privileges, etc., while the magnetic stripe handled other transactions such as dining and access control.

In 2008, Morehead State decided to go completely contactless. Its contact chip solution could not support this upgrade, so it began investigating contactless technologies. The university chose iCLASS because of its increasing prominence in higher education, as well as its ability to manage all card-based transactions. The University worked with its campus card system provider, The CBORD Group, Inc., to purchase the technologies and make sure they operated seamlessly with the Odyssey PCS™ campus card system in use at the school. During the implementation all resources were utilized to make the transition to contactless as simple and as easy as possible. A “Get Carded @ MSU” web site was established specific to the implementation and the associated re-carding of all students/employees. It explained the contactless tech., time schedules for reader installs and the re-carding, lists of all readers with charts marking when they were activated, and general announcements. All associated depts. and contracted service providers were also scheduled to help with the install. These included: The department of Information Technology, Department of Concessions and Vending, Jetz Laundry, Pepsi, Pharos, IKON Document Services, Missouri Bookstore Systems. With their help, all 220+ readers were installed, programmed and on line within 5 working days. Cbord has stated that it was one of the most seamless installs of that size they have been involved with.

While other universities had implemented iCLASS for access control, Morehead State was the first to move to an entirely-iCLASS campus card program with Odyssey PCS. More than 230 iCLASS readers and 15,000 contactless cards are now in place to manage purchases and privileges for dining services, access control, bookstore purchases, copying/printing, laundry payment, snack/beverage vending, Concessions, Library fees, and University fees at the Business Office. All locations are iClass tap-n-go and are described as “flyBUY” locations. By using the term flyBUY it establishes an identity specifically for the contactless technology associated with the EagleCard program.

So there you have it, from Coffee to petrol. From India to the USA, this year’s finalists have a broad selection of projects and implementations. Who will win? Who knows – I’m not on the judging panel. But I will be there on the 29th April. Will you?

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