A French startup is launching a shelf-edge NFC system that demonstrates why NFC could revolutionize shopping, add value, and save you some money in the process. Get ready to wave your phone in the air like you just don't care...
Think&Go's new NFC commerce platform is all kinds of exciting, if you're into near-field wireless tech or interested in the future of shopping. That's because the system, which is being tried out in France's E. Leclerc supermarkets, has some of the next-gen, genuinely value-added features of smartphone-enabled NFC shopping in the form of interactive store shelf-labeling and real-time dynamic advertising.
The system is bright enough to realize that if you use your phone to register an interest in buying spaghetti, it would be smart to offer you an advert for a ready-made bolognese sauce. The shopping "preference engine" in the accompanying smartphone app allows consumers to set limits on products they're interested in, so a wave of their phone over the store's shelf-side NFC label instantly tells them if this is a product that meets their needs. While handy, this system is also useful for detecting dietary information or alerting users that such-and-such a product contains peanut oil, for instance. For those who don't want to collapse in an allergen-induced attack, desperately waving at passing shoppers to help administer their Epi-pen, the smartphone is your new best friend.
There are two ways to use the tech. The complex one involves slipping an NFC card into a sticky jacket on the back of your non-NFC phone, while the other uses the full app-capabilities of an NFC smartphone like the Nexus S. Though for now the devices merely allow simple interaction with the store and its products, there are options like voluntary consumer-tracking to think about—shops could optimize store layouts based on how people move through the aisles. In the future there'll be in-store navigation, personalized marketing, coupons, and a host of treats. The future of shopping is on preview now in a French supermarket.
That's not to say there aren't hurdles to overcome in adopting this new way of shopping. All of this wireless interactivity involves actually bringing your phone in close proximity to an NFC tag on a shelf or a product (and when it comes to payment, laying your phone down on the checkout counter or pad). Remember how long it took to get used to seeing folk using Bluetooth headsets, seemingly randomly chattering away to the demons in their heads, until you realized they were having a phone conversation? In much the same way, we'll soon be confronted with people dimly batting their $800 phones against tins of beans, shelves, advertising posters, and payment points with all the grace of a reanimated caveman batting at a PC keyboard. Opportunist muggers may seize the moment and grab all our outstretched smartphones...hopefully this new type of value-added shopping will make it worth the risk.