In the good ol’ days of McDonald’s, you’d finish your quarter pounder, pull on your sweaty tube socks, and go play in the glistening, brightly-colored, slippery-with-sweat tunnels of the huge McDonald’s Play Place.
Not anymore. In one Singapore location, young McDonald’s diners can play with “The Happy Table,” a McDonald’s-themed smartphone game that’s only playable within the confines of the McDonald’s restaurant (PLAY UNTIL YOU’RE HUNGRY FOR MORE FOOD, KIDS!). What is this sorcery, you ask? The restaurant’s tables are embedded with NFC stickers, so when a kid waves her smartphone over the table, “The Happy Table” game automatically launches on her screen.
Guess it’s going to be a little longer before we can do away with our easy-to-misplace, hard-to-use-up MetroCards: While the MTA has been experimenting with near field communication technology for subway fares as far back as 2007—inviting us to imagine a day when we can pay for mass transit with the tap of a smartphone or debit card—the full adoption of the technology remains beyond our grasp.
Things About Which We Are Unsure
Firms specializing in technology security make it their business to scare potential customers, but that doesn’t make an Internet Identity (IID) report predicting cyber doom in 2014, highlighted today by Ray Kurzweil’s Accelerating Intelligence, any less spooky.
According to IID, looming cybersecurity threats in 2013–more mobile malware, increasingly aggressive hacktivism, attacks on the cloud–are “well-anticipated and mundane.”
Those “mundane” threats are nothing next to the bleak wasteland of death and destruction IID expects in 2014:
Rise of the Machines
A report from WNYC’s New Tech City indicates that in addition to driving themselves, our cars may one day be able to have conversations, as well. New Tech City’s Manoush Zomorodi questioned Transportation Nation‘s Alex Goldmark in the clip below and Mr. Goldmark said the future is in machines using Near-Field Communication (NFC) to communicate via shortwave.
Mr. Goldmark’s description of life with machines chattering around us sounds great, on the surface:
The Future of the Ebook
Yesterday Barnes & Noble announced a splashy Microsoft partnership, complete with major cash infusion. Today, Fortune has a Q&A with CEO William Lynch, speculating on how the bookseller can leverage NFC technologies. Whatever its eventual fate, this company seems damned determined that if there’s an obituary involved, it will not read like those of Borders.
Near field communication is now as near as our friend to the south and east. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced today that Google Wallet would be partnering with NJ Transit, the third largest transit system in the country.
TechCrunch says commuters with Nexus S 4Gs with be able to use their phones to pay for tickets with a whoosh (a swish? a swipe? did we decide on something here?) of their phones .
Betabeat has a new internet bank to dote on now that BankSimple has abandoned us for the City of Roses. Movenbank is a New York-based personal banking service that uses near field communication–the same technology as Google Wallet–to remove the cards and the wallet from banking transactions and replace them with your phone. Founder Brett King, an Aussie based in New York and London, rode the success of his book, Bank 2.0, and his experience with his boutique consultancy firm User Strategy, to start up a bank with ”No paper. No plastic. No hidden fees.” The bank is launching its first product, a Mint-esque personal finance profile based on social data, on October 1 and plans to roll out the financial services over the summer.
David vs. Googliath
eBay must have really dug Jack Dorsey’s vision for a frictionless point-of-sale system because CEO John Donahoe just announced that its PayPal unit is trying to do the same thing. Back in May, Mr. Dorsey, announced that Square, his mobile payments company, would be releasing Card Case, an app that attempted to reinvent the point-of-sale experience the same way Square reinvented mobile payments.
Card Cases stores your credit card info so that after swiping once with participating merchants, you can start a “tab” and pay with just a tap of your iPhone, iPad, or Android device. On the merchant side, businesses can use Square Register to spit out digital receipts, check daily transactions, and basically automate the checkout experience. On its quarterly earnings call, Mr. Donahoe said PayPal plans on targeting those same offline point-of-sale transactions.
A billion rumors:
GRUMPY INCUMBENTS. Mobile payments sure make people catty. PayPal sent Betabeat several explicit and unsolicited statements about Google’s announcement of its NFC-chipped phone, including: “As the mobile payment leader (we expect $2 billion in payment volume to transact over mobile devices via PayPal in 2011), we’d be happy to comment. Put simply–before you try mobile (or any other payments) solution, you need to be great at payments. There is so much more than just technology involved to get payments right. Above all (and this is something that many tech pundits simply forget), any new solution must deliver something better than the existing way to do it. Not just different… better.”
Visa chose to blog its disapproval. “It is certainly news that Google is getting in the game by testing a new payment service… something that we’ve been doing around the world for the past couple of years. But I’d remind you that launching NFC payments in the U.S. this year was just one small aspect of our recent announcement regarding Visa’s plan to provide a global, comprehensive solution enabling consumers to transact wherever, whenever by using a card, a computer or a mobile device which kicks off later this year.”
Visitors to Google’s I/O conference can tap their phones against special NFC posters at this year’s event and be automatically checked into Foursquare.
This is a public test of some bleeding edge stuff Foursquare has been working on for a while. As note in the blog post, “NFC is, obviously, a long way from being available everywhere and in all phones, but we’re excited by some of the potential.”