Clutch's mobile wallet has added technology from Mobeam that allows consumers to 'beam' bar codes from loyalty, membership and gift cards from certain smartphone models directly to standard laser scanners, which often cannot read bar codes on mobile apps.
"There are so many retailers with legacy scanning technology that is not compatible with mobile redemption at the point of sale," says Andy O'Dell, co-founder and chief commercial officer of Clutch.
And these retailers are in no rush to replace their laser scanners with newer devices that can read the QR codes used by many mobile wallets. The technology Clutch uses, first introduced in the Samsung Galaxy S4, instead tricks laser scanners by emitting pulses of light that mimic the black-and-white sequencing of a standard bar code.
Clutch's mobile wallet stores virtual gift cards and enables consumers to browse merchant and daily deal sites for vouchers and coupons for use in online or at the point of sale.
Consumers can access the Mobeam feature when running the Clutch app on a Samsung Galaxy S4 or a Galaxy Note 3. (Samsung has sold over 40 million Galaxy S4 phones and over 10 million Galaxy Note 3 phones worldwide, according to various reports.)
Mobeam also offers the feature in a standalone app on the Google Play and Samsung app stores. Mobeam built its technology in partnership with Austrian micro sensor company Ams, integrating Mobeam's light-based beaming technology and Ams' light sensors.
The retailers that most often use standard flatbed scanners or handheld scanners include grocery stores, movie theaters and stadiums, says Marcia Donner, Mobeam's chief operating officer. These retailers have many reasons to avoid upgrading their point of sale technology, she adds.
"It would be costly for a grocery chain to replace all of those scanners," Donner says. "These scanners are never replaced because they need to have the speed, accuracy and throughput that's needed in a grocery store or movie theater environment."
Clutch chose bar code technology over other options such as Near Field Communication, since Mobeam's system eliminates the need for retailers to adjust their point of sale hardware, O'Dell says.
"NFC doesn't make sense because it's not a holistic solution. NFC is only viable to amusement, vending and other narrow self-serve solutions," O'Dell says. "With the Mobeam technology, the consumer and clerk perceive it as a bar code, so they're using the technology the same way that they are used to. They already know what to do."
Mobeam's model can also improve the user experience for coupons and payment or loyalty cards, says Zilvinas Bareisis, a senior analyst at Celent. "With this you can have any coupon sent to you with a standard bar code and you can flash it against a scanner and it will work," he says.
However, the feature's limited availability will be a drawback, he says. "It's only available on a couple of handsets, so I don't know how practical that is," he says.