The 2011 Contactless Monkey Award Finalists – 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:

First up is ITN International. ITN has been providing data management services to the events industry since 1999 and used mostly contact smartcards as its core technology to compete with traditional solutions based on 1D, 2D or magnetic stripe technology. Starting in November 2007, ITN International introduced an NFC ecosystem called BCARD Reader for tradeshows, conferences and events using mobile phones, NFC tags and a mobile data network.

This new NFC ecosystem was very well received and this past year, ITN deployed its BCARD Reader NFC application running on NFC phones for lead management, access control and purse applications at more than 100 large events worldwide like Mobile World Congress, Mobile Asia Congress, CTIA Wireless, CTIA Enterprise and Applications, IBC, Interop, Pittcon, Embedded Systems Conference, Microsoft TechEd, VM World, EMC World, RSA Security, etc.

In 2010 alone, about 10,000 exhibiting companies have used the BCARD Reader for their information exchange needs and in excess of 500,000 visitors were issued a BCARD to enable the ecosystem to run. The ease of use, flexibility and built-in connectivity of the BCARD Reader ecosystem are far superior to other traditional solutions based on 1D, 2D or magnetic stripe technology. As a result ITN has obtained an unparalleled competitive advantage in the marketplace.

This implementation has revolutionized how information is exchanged and managed at tradeshows, events and conferences. Not only has it become simpler and more reliable to “touch” a badge (remember how frustrating it is to read a 2D barcode with a gun?), but the ability to quickly transact and move the result via the mobile network to a back-end system has resulted in a drastically shorter time frame for following up on tradeshow leads. Billions of dollars are spent by corporations on events and leads management is a key factor in the ROI calculation: the BCARD Reader ecosystem has proven to improve the ROI.

Since 2007 ITN have issued in excess of 2,000,000 tags as part of their ecosystem deployments. As for the number of contactless NFC phones deployed, in 2010, they serviced about 10,000 exhibiting companies that used about 15,000 device installations (some companies use more than one unit). Since 2007, they have deployed about 50,000 single installations.

Next we have a name that everyone is familiar with – McDonald’s. There are around 1200 restaurants to be found in a variety of locations. The intention is to increase the pace of acquisitions with a target of 30 new restaurant openings per year from 2010, which will create up to 1800 new job opportunities annually.

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) launched a touch-and-go card allowing cardholders to pay for everyday items worth less than £10, with the combination of a Formula 1 team and a McDonalds drive-thru in London playing host to the first public payment in UK. As an early adopter, McDonalds has been able to pursue its much quoted initial experience “For every 6 seconds saved at the POS you can realise a 1% increase in sales”.

McDonald’s is the premier Quick Service Restaurant brand in the world. In addition to the standard quick service food offering McDonald’s now also supplies breakfast to millions of people every day. The vast majority of the transactions taken are under £15 which means that this is an ideal environment in which to implement Contactless Payments and gain the benefits of speed and convenience.

McDonald’s has recently changed every component of the Cashless Payment System – this commenced with Phase One which was the replacement of the card payment software. In Phase Two all of the PIN Entry Devices (PEDs) have been replaced with Contactless enabled units from Ingenico. Phase Three enhances the software with a new, groundbreaking approach to Contactless payments – McDonald’s will be the first retailer in the UK to implement Contactless nationally on the latest VISA NFC 2.1.1 specifications. The POS automatically detects that a transaction is a candidate for Contactless payment, i.e. £15 or less, and enables the PED accordingly. The customer is alerted to the fact that Contactless can be used by the display of the universal Contactless “ripple” symbol on the PED.

Previous implementations of Contactless payment by other retailers have suffered from lack of knowledge on the part of the staff and the customer. This has been managed internally within McDonald’s through extensive restaurant management training and unique marketing materials to educate the customer.

The McDonald’s implementation puts the information in the eye line of the customer and primes the device so that no additional action is required on the part of the McDonald’s crew member. Consequently it becomes as easy to complete a contactless transaction as it is to do a Chip and PIN transaction.  This has made the behaviour change in the customer (as great as that for the introduction of Chip and PIN) easy to accomplish.

There are 8000 contactless devices installed across the McDonald’s UK estate of 1200 restaurants and any globally issued VISA or MasterCard contactless card can be used.

Our third contender to this title is Vianet from the UK. Vianet is the leading provider of telemetry and cashless services for the vending machines.  Its customers include Coca-Cola Hellenic, GlaxoSmithKline and France.  Against the background of the growth of contactless cards and some of the economic and ergonomic challenges facing the vending operators Vianet developed contactless (only) solution in 2010. Vianet are working with a number of parties in the UK to launch contactless acceptance at the vending machines. These are expected to go live in the coming months. These implementations will ‘open up’ the whole vending sector (where currently 100% of the transactions are in cash). In the coming months  approximately 100 machines to go live, with rollout potential of approximately 200k machines in the UK.

Our final contender in this category come from the US and is DeviceFidelity. Founded in 2007, DeviceFidelity, Inc. is a privately funded American corporation. The core innovation is the first mobile contactless method that functions with any wireless service provider. Its simple plug-and-play integration makes it easy for both financial institutions and their customers to implement. DeviceFidelity’s patented In2Pay™ microSD product will transform many smartphones with a memory card slot into an interactive contactless transaction device.

The microSD can be issued by a financial institution or mobile network operator as a credit, debit, prepaid or a multiple account digital wallet.  The solution allows these issuers to quickly enable large segments of either pre-existing installed base or even add new customers with mobile contactless capability. The product has earned global recognition as the world’s leading plug and play solution that enables user preferred mobile phones to be used for simple wave and go payments at hundreds of thousands of merchants worldwide.

Leveraging the plug-and-play nature of the In2Pay micro SD, any user regardless of cell phone carrier, financial institution, or handset model can transform their phone into an NFC enabled device. With retailers increasingly offering contactless payments, users will be able to make mobile transactions quickly, efficiently and securely. In addition, users can benefit from coupons and rewards that are offered with participating merchants as well as utilize their mobile phone to collect more information from smart posters. This “mobile wallet” will prove invaluable to customers and citizens.

So there you have it – from event management to burger. From Vending to Micro SD – all looking to gain competitive advantage through technology. Who will be the final winner? You’ll have to be at the awards on the 14th April to find out!