Payments - complementary standards for value added services

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Why would you bother with an eWallet in your mobile phone when you can pay with cash or a regular debit or credit card? For people to switch, there needs to be a compelling value proposition. A frequently cited benefit is a painless approach to discount coupons, such as those commonly delivered to your door as paper spam. Having to sort out these coupons and stuff them into your already bulging wallet, then pull out the right one at the checkout stand is a pain for customers and checkout staff alike. With an eWallet in your phone, you could scan in printed QRCodes on advertisments, or easier still automatically add the eCoupons when tapping on NFC tags on other products.

Bar codes (including QRCodes) requires you to load the appropriate app on your phone and to line up the camera to make the scan. By comparison, NFC tags offer a much better user experience, as you just need to tap your phone against the tag, and the appropriate application is launched automatically. NFC tags could enable a wide range of value added third party services, for example, here are just a few ideas:

  • instantly check if the food item you are buying would trigger any of the allergies for you or your family members
  • at the same time get advice on alternative products that would be safe
  • get menu suggestions and a list of where to get the ingredients
  • get reports on your eating habits and suggestions for improvements - this would be based on signing up with a third party who would aggregate your purchases and provide a monthly report
  • get independent reviews of a product and suggestions for alternatives
  • get price comparisons with other stores, and painlessly contribute to those comparisons
  • get information on the provenance of products and how they were produced, e.g. is this item produced in an sustainable way and were the workers paid at equitable rates?
  • for clothing, get fashion tips on which other items would form a good outfit
  • get regular assessment of your family expenditure after having signed up with a third party, who could offer advice on healthier and cheaper choices for stretching your budget
  • get instant notifications of which of your friends bought this or a similar product
  • get offers of discounts for future purchases

Some valued added third party services will involve a business relationship between the merchant selling the product and the third party. Other such services could be based upon open standards, e.g. for naming products and providing access to information about them.

Some of these use cases can be addressed through an API for Web applications to read data off NFC tags. Others necessitate open standards for the information involved, e.g. for ingredients, provenance, washing instructions, and for adding a discount coupon to your eWallet.

  • See W3C NFC wiki for further background on NFC tags, use cases, and Web APIs