Ever-evolving mobile technology has demonstrated the ways in which it is changing lives by connecting friends and families around the globe, consistently introducing new handset-centric applications that simplify our everyday lives and delivering critical services such as mobile banking and mobile health. However, while both smartphones and traditional mobile phones offer basic voice and SMS, the divide begins to widen when you introduce capabilities for additional services such as ring tone, music, video, billing top-ups, etc.
For users of traditional or “basic” handsets, the overall experience varies largely depending on the subscriber’s handset model, their familiarity and knowledge of that handset, and their ability to overcome a level of monetary barriers to entry. While smartphone users are graced with real-time Web capabilities that enable one-touch access to mobile apps and services, basic handset users must rely on USSD or SMS for the delivery of services. This experience can be inconvenient at best and disenfranchising at worst – particularly for poor or illiterate mobile subscribers. Happily, the burgeoning development of newer, faster and better mobile phones has also sparked innovation for service delivery improvements that span the most basic of handsets to the latest smartphones. By uniting mobile communications with Near Field Communications (NFC) technology and “touch and transact” point of sale components, mobile operators can deliver on the promise of true anytime, anywhere access, serving the broadest spectrum of mobile subscribers.
Through the application of mobile touch and NFC technology, mobile operators, retailers and essential service providers can offer easy to use, cost-effective interfaces for all subscribers, regardless of handset preference. Mobile touch technology platforms work through touch points such as contactless-SIM, in-car services and “mobile posters” to provide anytime, anywhere value added services. These mobile posters are visually appealing and can be tailored to specific consumers based on region, language and location. Such posters give the user a personal, “one-on-one” sales experience with a pull-based option.
By including an NFC tag on the handset, basic phone and smartphone users alike can perform interactive transactions in real-time by simply tapping the mobile poster. Icon- or text-to-speech-based interactions provide users with a visually attractive and familiar means to collect information that is both handset-independent and is available in a language and layout the user will understand. Mobile poster transactions may be particularly appealing to prepaid subscribers who – until now – would have had to divulge personal information to store clerks in order to top up their accounts. With mobile touch technology, top up transactions are done via a mobile poster within the operator’s retail location. The subscriber simply interacts via the poster to specify top up amounts, and all information is retrieved and stored via a back-end database. This ensures privacy by eliminating the need to divulge personal information – such as phone number – to a retail clerk. New services such as train ticket purchases, micro-purchases, mobile banking and other yet-to-be-defined capabilities are also possible, adding additional enhanced services for subscribers.
To appeal to the smartphone subscriber base, MNOs can utilize mobile touch technology to provide low cost, self-service “Virtual Mall” posters in both populous and rural areas, adding a convenience factor that until now has not existed. Convenient mobile poster touch-points offer high-end services such as mobile commerce, money transfer and mobile banking and also provide an opportunity for impulse purchases for items such as lottery tickets, bus/metro tickets and more. Additionally, with advanced display capabilities, barcodes for proof of purchase and redemption are securely sent to the user’s phone for ease of completing the end-to-end transaction.
Delivery of value-added mobile services is convenient to some, and a critical to many. Innovative advances in and unique application of technology in the areas of NFC/mobile touch technologies, when combined with the mobile handset, have the potential to deliver more ubiquitous availability of, and greater access to, premium services on an anytime/anywhere basis for subscribers of every social and economic strata. This type of touch and transact technology promises to simplify the process of obtaining information and purchasing goods, thus negating the increasing complexity of handset interaction. Additionally, all of the technology discussed here exists today and can be provided utilizing existing distribution and telephony networks.
GV Kumar is CEO of XIUS, www.xius.com.