A new startup called TruBeacon has developed a range of Bluetooth-based technology for mobile payments and other uses and market segments, including health care, data management, payments, rewards, community banks and credit unions.
"Beacons have been around a while, but are only now starting to catch on in a very meaningful way, not just in the U.S but globally," says Phil Philliou, president and CEO of TruBeacon, who says he's gotten inquiries from retailers in Brazil about beacons.
TruBeacon recently received a $1 million investment from the National Innovation Fund, an Omaha, Neb.-based private equity company. TruBeacon's technology center is in Omaha and its executive offices are in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
The company will offer beacon services to different client categories based on specific needs.
"The beacons are generally the same, but the product will be modified by the use case," Philliou says. "What we do for quick service restaurants or coffee shops will be different than a hospital or a large medial practice."
The Health Beacon includes a mobile wallet, insurance eligibility checks and a mobile point of sale terminal that can be used by hospitals and medical practices. The Data Beacon analyzes demographic and geo-location data to help retailers understand customers and prospects. The Payments Beacon is a white label platform that works with smartphones, payment terminals and other point of sale technology such as Micros and NCR devices. It provides an application programming interface (API) that allows retailers and banks to integrate mobile wallets into iPhone and Android apps, supporting contactless payments, e-receipts and offer redemption.
The Rewards Beacon includes a module for retailers, sports facilities, restaurants and malls that's designed to generate offers based on a consumer's location in an effort to increase foot traffic and targeted spending. It can also track loyalty card holders, distribute coupons and publish ads. The Rewards Beacon also enables consumers to scan items with their phones and purchase those items from any location inside a store.
The Community Beacon is a white-label platform for community banks and credit unions, including a branded mobile app and a mobile point of sale terminal for local businesses.
The health care version takes into consideration the specific regulatory and business needs of that industry, Philliou says, while the community bank beacons focus on enabling smaller financial institutions to offer their own beacon-driven product bundle that's competitive with larger institutions. "It empowers the community banks or credit unions to offer these services to their merchants," Philliou says.
Beacon technology, which is powered by Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), has quickly become popular with retailers and payment companies as an alternative to Near Field Communication and GPS for contactless payments and location-based marketing. PayPal and Apple are both outspoken supporters of the technology, which PayPal's head of emerging services, Patrick Gauthier, says will be bigger than EMV cards.
SCVNGR's LevelUp found that Apple's iBeacon increased spending by an average of 22% for mobile payments made at merchants who participated in a recent test of the technology.
"The technology can be very disruptive, not just in payments but across the consumer shopping experience," says Rick Oglesby, a senior analyst and consultant at Double Diamond Payments Research. "The beacon itself includes a geolocation tracking capability, but the ways that capability can be used are endless, and they will largely depend on the needs of the particular business."
Oglesby says he agrees beacons will be bigger than EMV because EMV is a payment-centric technology while beacons can also support things like check-ins, loyalty programs, in-lane marketing, traffic pattern analysis, deal and offer redemption, plus "about a million other things. The potential scope of beacons far exceeds that of any payments technology."
As with any technology with broad potential applicability, beacons need to be productized in a way that the buyers can easily understand and deploy, Oglesby says.
"A beacon by itself is like electricity to a cavemanuseless despite its unlimited potential," he says. "Therefore the approach of productizing beacon-centric solutions around specific business needs makes a lot of sense. I think we'll see a lot of this, particularly as beacon technology goes down market towards smaller businesses."