Really "like" your local coffee shop? Soon, you'll be able to "like" the shop on Facebook thanks to NFC (near-field communications) pioneer Bling Nation, whose mobile phone stickers are also used to perform mobile payments at participating merchants.
With the new "FanConnect" platform, announced at PayPal's Developer Conference yesterday, businesses can connect with consumers on both Facebook and up-and-coming location-based network Foursquare. All the customer has to do is wave their phone near the store's accompanying NFC reader.
How Bling Nation Works
For consumers, the Bling Nation platform is easy enough to use - a sticker placed on the back of their mobile phone turns the device into a NFC-enabled communications device. NFC, or "near field communications," is a short-range high frequency wireless communication technology which enables the exchange of data between devices over about a 4-inch distance.
NFC is positioned as one of the technologies that may eventually replace the credit card, as it can handle data transfer for financial transactions without having to swipe a physical plastic card through a reader. Although Bling Nation embeds NFC technology into stickers, many mobile phones worldwide ship with the technology included. Apple has also filed several patents related to NFC and hired a well-known NFC expert, moves which hint that the company may one day introduce the technology into the iPhone.
In Bling Nation's case, a point-of-sale system isn't required to use the NFC tags. A base station is provided to merchants for free upon sign up and is plugged into a wall outlet. Bling Nation takes a cut of the processing costs, claiming its merchants can save up to 50% in processing fees over traditional methods. Payments can then be processed by PayPal (hence the announcement at PayPal's event), but Bling Nation can also work directly with banks. Bling Nation is also now a part of PayPal's iPhone app, the company just announced.
FanConnect: "Liking" at Check Out
Customers equipped with the so-called "Bling Tag" can "like" a business on Facebook, post rewards to their Facebook page, redeem discounts and promotions and even check in on Foursquare.
Facebook employees, not surprisingly, are fans of the company and have been issued stickers to use in Palo Alto, CA and other areas where the trial is underway. FanConnect itself will debut in Palo Alto, San Francisco and San Jose next month and will later roll out to other areas in the U.S. early next year.
Lest you think that Bling Nation is just one of those crazy ideas the folks in California have come up with - check out the team behind this enterprising startup: its advisory board includes John Reed, a former chairman of Citibank and of the New York Stock Exchange and Jeff Stiefler, a former chairman of Digital Insight and a former president of American Express. Meanwhile, co-CEOs Wences Casares and Meyer Malka founded Banco Lemon, a Brazilian retail bank, and Patagon, the largest online brokerage in Latin America, reports NFC World.
Stickers are only necessary for those of us (read: most of the U.S.) without NFC-equipped mobile phones. Bling Nation's hardware will work with any NFC phone when those become more readily available.