Mobeam CEO George Garrick states that his company’s technology “completes the digital wallet.” Mobeam offers a technology solution to enable the omnipresent scanners in retail establishments to accept loyalty and gift cards and other barcoded promotional offerings directly from smartphones.
Mobeam uses a light beaming technology. A user with the company’s Beep’nGo app can take a picture of a barcode on their mobile phone and the app will enable the barcode to be accepted by an ordinary scanner.
As the company describes it, “Mobeam’s patented technology sends pulses of light to the sensor in POS scanners and mimics the black-and-white sequencing of a standard bar code. So, instead of reading the reflection from a printed barcode, laser scanners receive identical information from pulses of light.” As Garrick points out, this solves the issue of that “last mile” (or perhaps, last yard), which is that millions of in-place scanners cannot directly read a barcode from a smartphone screen.
Adoption By Samsung
The company received a good deal of attention when its system was adopted by Samsung and, as Garrick points out, Mobeam is now available on some 200+ million Samsung phones.
The system does require the phone maker to install a modified chip in the phone. Mobeam is also working on an audio beaming system. This would use a chip to translate an audio signal into a visual beam, so that a phone that does not have the modified visual chip can transmit the barcode information as a light signal to scanners. It is trialing this technology in the UK.
Two-Pronged Business Model
While the technology innovation is interesting, we were also interested in Mobeam’s business strategy for exploiting this development. The company is in the middle of a major area, mobile payments, which involves multiple parties.
Garrick identified two basic strategies. First is to license the technology to mobile apps providers, in which case the company expects to receive payments on a per user or per device basis. Among the parties that Mobeam states have launched its app is Vodafone.
Secondly, the company’s strategy is to become a significant distributor of promotional offerings and to receive part of the distribution fees. “We’re a distribution channel,” Garrick states, “much like a Valpak or Catalina.” Garrick describes a “library of promotions” which he believes the company can accumulate, store on their cloud, and distribute. This is based, in part, on Mobeam’s ability to track user behavior through their app.
Opportunities For Beaming Technology
Garrick makes an intriguing point that the Mobeam’s technology could find numerous additional use cases in the future. These could infiltrate almost “any situation where laser scanners are in mass deployment,” he states. Examples might be: replacing paper barcode tags on airline luggage; ticketing for major events; casino situations where winners at slots collect with paper vouchers.
While fraud is widespread with respect to coupon copying, Garrick notes that it would be expensive to try to copy beams. His technology, he states, reduces fraud by eliminating the barcode, “The real information is in the beam,” he states.
Mobeam is currently at the point of focusing on scaling the acceptance of their app and technology, “building our footprint,” Garrick says. He offers a list of benefits that their technology provides, including: ease of use for consumers who can have all of their promotional offerings handy on their phones; improved productivity of cashiers; increased efficiencies throughout the couponing model, by eliminating the need to ship paper coupons for delivery and for later verification.
We at mobilecloudera.com have been interested in this area of digitizing loyalty cards, coupons and other promotions for the past six years, since an entrepreneur friend of ours spent about three quarters of million dollars trying unsuccessfully to develop a solution. Garrick, who recently joined Mobeam lists an impressive record of driving growth in early stage tech companies. Our take is that it is an important area and that Mobeam has real opportunity.
As Garrick has stated, commenting on ApplePay, GooglePay and other mobile payments systems, “But with all due respect, every one of these apps is incomplete because they cannot replace bar-coded gift cards or coupons, which represent $20 billion in transactions annually for retailers.”
Visit their website: www.mobeam.com