Apple and Disney (News - Alert) this week will upgrade their in-store NFC scanners that use iBeacon technology. This news comes the same week that Apple is expected to introduce its latest smartphone, the iPhone (News - Alert) 6. This is one sign of an overall trend of the retail industry moving towards NFC technology in many of its operations.
The upgrade will include the installation of several Gimbal Series 20 proximity beacon devices. The Series 20 uses four AA batteries and can operate about one year between battery changes. This particular model transmits 10 times per second, five times faster than the Series 10.
Reaction to this technology is going to vary from privacy concerns to excitement to, “What took you so long?”
The most common concern from privacy advocates will be whether or not these systems are secure and the unlimited information about consumers’ spending habits that they collect. Concerns over security are certainly legitimate, given that the iPhone 6 effectively becomes a digital wallet with its built-in support for NFC payments. No one wants to see another hacking incident like the one Target (News - Alert) suffered last Christmas. One known weakness of iBeacon technology is that it can be spoofed.
As the location technology of iBeacon becomes more precise, the benefits to consumers improve dramatically. Imagine a hypothetical sporting goods store using iBeacon where the baseball equipment aisle is next to the tennis equipment aisle.
The iPhone customer in the baseball aisle would not want messages about tennis racquets from an imprecise locator device. Furthermore, if this customer was looking for bats instead of gloves, precise locating would only give that person details about bats. This information may include which bats were legal for youth, high school or collegiate play, but would avoid providing information about gloves. Promotions and incentives on bat purchases could also be sent to a smartphone.
On the payment side, NFC technology is here to stay. MasterCard and Visa have imposed a deadline where retailers must upgrade their card scanners to support NFC by October 2015. Europe and Asia have used this technology for years to make payments while the U.S. has been behind the curve.
Apple (News - Alert) has a head start as far as using NFC technology for locating customers and improving their overall experience through their iPhones goes. It would be vulnerable however, to a competitor that could develop an NFC sensor that supported Android and Windows Phone (News - Alert) as well as iPhone.
Edited by Maurice Nagle
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