McDonald’s Gets Softcard

Softcard (formerly Isis), a mobile payment system that competes with Apple Pay and Google Wallet, announced today that it is accepted at more than 14,000 McDonald’s locations around the country beginning today. Smartphone owners can make NFC-based mobile payments at the register and the drive-thru at all McDonald’s restaurants. McDonald’s will also accept Apple Pay.

Last month, Subway also announced a partnership with Softcard to support mobile payments.

Softcard is free to download and is compatible with more than 80 Android handsets sold by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Softcard combines payments, offers and loyalty in one app. Softcard uses the EMV Contactless specification and SmartTap technology to enable payments, offers and loyalty redemption through one tap.

Apple Pay saw more than one million card activations within 72 hours of launch, reports NFC World, and is already the leading NFC payments player in the US, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Cook outlined future growth plans for the service at the WS Journal D Live conference this week, including a potential partnership with Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba.

US pharmacy chains Rite Aid and CVS plan to launch their own CurrentC mobile payment service in 2015, and have stopped accepting NFC payments, blocking mobile payments services like Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Softcard.

Unfortunately, CurrentC is now warning people that hackers have already swiped some of the beta tester’s email addresses.

Mobile proximity payments have to date proven lacklustre despite the hundreds of millions spent on developing these platforms. But loyalty rewards and benefits of the digital wallet is now seen by many as potentially the killer app that will help to finally ignite the long simmering mobile proximity payment market.

Ovum’s research indicates that 53% of consumers globally report they’ve either used or are interested in redeeming offers and coupons with their handsets, while 44% have used or are interested using their mobile device to pay for things in store and restaurants, explains Gilles Ubaghs, Senior Analyst, Financial Services Technology at Ovum.

Talking Statues Project

Talking Statues uses Near Field Communication to enable curious passers-by to swipe their smart-phone over a statue’s signage, triggering a “call back” from the likes of Isaac Newton, Queen Victoria or Sherlock Holmes. A call back can also be initiated by the use of a QR code or by using a short URL that is displayed on the signage at each statue.

The Talking Statues project was developed in conjunction with the non-profit event production company Sing London and Antenna Lab to bring 35 statues to life using a dozen of Britain’s most recognizable celebrity voices.

“Talking Statues is all about using low cost technology to give people access to art, culture and technology in streets and parks,” said Jessica Taylor, Antenna Lab Director. Our hope is that museums – small and large – will benefit from this pioneering approach.”

The Talking Statues project will run for one year and will be closely monitored and analysed by Leicester School of Museum Studies, gauging whether the technology can lead people to visit surrounding galleries and museums. All findings will be made publicly available to museums and galleries.

In related news, Qualcomm’s iZat indoor geo-location technology offers location mapping on the LG G3 in 21 shopping malls, but so far it only works in South Korea, notes GigaOm. G3 owners can download an app on Google Play. iZAT combines GPS constellations, WiFi and a phone’s built-in sensors such as a gyroscope, accelerometer and compass to pinpoint your location, no matter where you are.

Apple’s iBeacon can notify nearby iOS 7 devices of their presence, enabling a smart phone or other device to perform actions when in close proximity to an iBeacon. iBeacon uses Bluetooth low energy proximity sensing to transmit a universally unique identifier picked up by a compatible app or operating system.

Devices running the Android operating system prior to version 4.4 can only receive iBeacon advertisements but cannot emit iBeacon advertisements.

Android L added support for both central and peripheral modes.

NFC at MWC 2014

The NFC Experience, exhibited a new services and NFC-enabled devices at Mobile World Congress this week. Near Field Communications was featured in many new products including phones, readers and services.

NFC enables contactless financial transactions and data exchange over a very short range. Communication is also possible between an NFC device and an unpowered NFC chip, called a “tag”.

Some 65 NFC-enabled digital Tap-n-Go Points were located around Fira Gran Via by Korean operator KT. The NFC Media Poles deliver a range of information services to visitors at the tap of an NFC phone, including films, coupons, tickets, music and advertisements.

The NFC Badge was available for Android 4.0+ and Windows Phone 8 operating systems, and iPhones using the Incipio Cashwrap NFC-enabled case.

Ten thousand attendees utilised the NFC Badge and nearly 51,000 NFC transactions were made across Fira Gran Via. Building on the success of the NFC Badge in 2013, customers of Bouygues Telecom, Bharti Airtel, Dialog, Etisalat, KT Corp., Orange, Tata and Telstra were able to further streamline their entry to Mobile World Congress by participating in a trial using their mobile operator credentials to confirm their identity.

The GSMA today reported that more than 85,000 visitors from 201 countries attended the 2014 Mobile World Congress, up by 18% over 2013, setting another new record for the mobile industry’s premier event.

Smart City Unwired

GSMA will showcase the Connected City at Mobile World Congress with partners, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, KT and Vodafone. Solutions from Accenture, Ericsson, General Motors, IBM, Huawei, Samsung and Synchronoss Technologies will also be shown.

Synchronoss Personal Cloud is an industry-leading white-labeled personal cloud solution. It claims to enable any device to simply and quickly activate on the network, providing subscribers with storage and sync capabilities.

AT&T’s Digital Life is an all-IP, all-wireless platform solution that employs AT&T’s software-as-a-service model to deliver turnkey capabilities to Service Providers.

Other Mobile applications include:

  • Smart Sensing Shirts with a team of connected basketball players wearing the smart sensing sportswear to monitor and optimise performance.
  • Connected Cars – Explore the possibilities of automotive services through the use of augmented reality. Clear Channel will showcase its iHeartRadio app inside the connect car display.
  • Security including lock your house, opening car doors, and entering office buildings.
  • Home control and monitoring enabling your alarm system, thermostat and security cameras to work together.
  • Healthcare to improve patient follow up as well as enable monitoring devices and video calls.
  • NFC – highlighting applications in payment, retail, transport, mobile identity and access.

Korea Telecom’s NFC Media Pole combines NFC with digital signage to provide videos, coupons, tickets, music and advertisements on NFC enabled smartphones. There will be 65 KT NFC Media Poles deployed at MWC 2014 on the Fira Gran Via.

Vodafone will demonstrate remotely controlled street lighting and water storage monitoring, among other functions enabled by the Smart City.

Visitors at MWC will be able to place food orders and make payments using a mobile app, and check in to restaurants via NFC or QR or collect their meal from a dedicated pick-up point.

AT&T, Cisco and Accuris Networks will provide Hotspot 2.0 Wi-Fi connectivity along with major carriers as soon as people walk through the conference doors.

AllSeen Alliance formed for Internet of Things

The Internet of Things, where objects connect themselves to the internet, got a boost today from the AllSeen Alliance, a new open source consortium overseen by the Linux Foundation (FAQ).

The All Seen Alliance, looks to expand upon the “Internet of Things,” which Gartner predicts will add $1.9 trillion to the global economy by 2020.

The software runs on popular platforms such as Linux, Android, iOS, and Windows, including embedded variants. It will add more functionality and interaction across various brands and sectors, such as the connected home, healthcare, education, automotive and enterprise.

The AllSeen Alliance is based on a piece of Qualcomm technology, AllJoyn, which lets devices automatically pair over different wireless protocols and collaborate across product catagories.

Instead of dictating that devices have to connect with each other over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth or Zigbee and having users painstakingly pair those devices, AllJoyn automatically discovers devices and negotiating connections with whichever protocols are available.

The new initiative has attracted major supporters including Qualcomm, LG, Panasonic, Haier, Cisco, D-Link, Fon, Harman, HTC, Cisco, Sears, and Wilocity. The members of the AllSeen Alliance will contribute software and engineering resources, enabling hardware manufacturers, service providers and software developers to create interoperable devices and services.

One company conspicuously absent from the list is Intel. Intel has its own Intelligent Systems Framework, designed to enable connectivity, manageability and security across devices. The embedded ecosystem has been used in more than 50 products in the communications, transportation, medical, mobile, industrial and retail industries.

While Machine-to-Machine provides the plumbing between devices, the Internet of Things, such as the AllSeen Alliance, aims to add smarts to seamlessly connect and do stuff.

According to ABI Research more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet of Things by 2020. Most will connect via wireless technologies including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Cellular, and RFID.

Bluetooth 4.0: Healthy Growth

The migration to Bluetooth Smart (aka Bluetooth Low Energy or Bluetooth 4.0) is accelerating for mobile health and fitness, says Mhealth.

Bluetooth Smart certified products have increased 380% from January. By 2017, Bluetooth chipsets used for just health/wellness and sports/fitness will reach 95.7 million and much of the growth will be attributed to Bluetooth Smart used in mobile sensing devices.

Between 2013 and 2017, more than a quarter of a billion wearable health and fitness sensing devices will be shipped worldwide, says Mobile Health News.

ON World’s evaluation of 200 mobile sensing health and fitness products found that Bluetooth Smart will be used in 59% of the products launched in 2013. Bluetooth Low Energy consumes between one-half and 1/100th of the power of Classic Bluetooth technology.