Marketers have options other than Google Wallet when it comes to mobile electronic payments. Naratte, a Silicon Valley startup, has been creating buzz behind technology that uses a speaker and a microphone found in mobile handsets and devices. The technology provides the same benefits as near field communication (NFC) to launch mobile wallet transactions and marketing campaigns such as coupons.
Naratte Cofounder and CEO Brett Paulson calls the ultrasonic technology Zoosh. The technology, when built into an application, can serve up coupon and other marketing campaigns, as well as process ecommerce transactions with merchants. It gives application developers the benefits of near field communication (NFC) in a software development kit (SDK).
Paulson, a former Texas Instruments executive with a background in wireless and audio technologies, holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from The University of Texas and an MBA from Stanford University. He explains how each transaction gets turned into an audio wave before being transmitted through the speaker. The microphone on the other end picks up the sound and processes it. While the transaction is turned into an inaudible signal to humans, the audio wave can be heard by frogs, dolphins and other animals.
Naratte's app runs on Apple iOS and Google Android operating systems. The company already has one developer embedding the software in its app. For instance, SparkBase built a Zoosh-enabled mobile wallet application called PayCloud, which the company has been selling to undisclosed merchants. Trials will begin in July in Chicago and Ohio. Paulson said wireless carriers are starting to get on board, too.
Marketers have options other than mobile wallets. The technology supports a multimedia (MMS) coupon where the consumer receives a multimedia message for $1 off on the phone. Rather than an SMS message, the consumer receives an MMS message from a consumer product goods company, ad agency or retailer.
The consumer can take the phone into the retail store and play it at the point of sale (PoS) terminal. An audible sound might say "thank you for being a loyal customer, Laurie," as the inaudible signature processes the transaction. That's something NFC can't do.
Marketers can't take a multimedia message and connect it to an NFC chipset or have an option to move the transaction through HTML 5-based applications, which has access to an audio system. Zoosh will not replace NFC, but marketers that want to build a digital coupon campaign or loyalty program can do it today.
Retailers relying on a tablet as a point of sale terminal use the microphone and the speakers in the device to complete the transaction. Those that want to deploy it through a VeriFone or similar terminal can purchase a $30 docking device that plugs into the back of the machine to complete the encrypted transaction. PoS terminals built on the Intel platform need a "$2 piece of plastic" that has a speaker and a microphone.
Although Google and Apple still have work to do, consumers under age 50 are ready to make cashless transactions. A recent study from Retrevo titled "Pulse" examines consumers' readiness to start paying for items in-store using their cell phone. The study, released earlier this month, found that iPhone owners are more comfortable using a mobile wallet from Apple -- at 61% -- compared with Android owners, at 46%.
In fact, 40% of iPhone owners are the most likely to want NFC in their phone to conduct mobile transactions, compared with 24% for Android owners. Men, at 27%, are more interested in a mobile wallet, compared with women at 15%. And 75% of people over age 50 were not interested in a phone with a mobile wallet.