Bluetooth Beacons: Digital Wallet from Proxima

Bluetooth LE beacons are bringing in a new age of contactless payments. And an Australian company is already out of the gate.

Bluetooth LE technology is an NFC killer. The beacons that Apple is putting into its stores aren’t just a way to deliver you product videos or let you make appointments at the Genius Bar: they’re the first front in the larger possibility that Apple will eventually own your wallet.

iBeacon Wallet
iBeacon Wallet

Proxima, which is using iBeacon technology to power proximity-based experiences ranging from visiting a local gallery to exploring public art, has launched an eWallet using Bluetooth LE.

[Full disclosure: we’re big fans of Proxima…in part because we’ve been working with them.]

The product comes out of a perhaps uniquely Australian need. Dan Nolan of Proxima tells Fast Company that “in Australia the financial services industry is very heavily regulated, so the rate of change we have in the country is quite slow.”

Bypass the Card Reader
The solution? Bypass the credit card reader market entirely and go right to the phone. And to further bypass power-hungry NFC and use the power of proximity to make an elegant user experience that works because of beacons:

“The cool thing with beacons is that you’re able to get an approximate range in terms of distance to the beacon,” Nolan says. “So you join the queue to buy something from the vendor and when you get to the top of the queue the vendor can take your order, which is all seamlessly handled by the software the vendor uses. You approve the purchase and the entire communication is handled securely over the multipeer APIs Apple shipped in iOS 7, and proxied through the vendor’s device if your device does not have a currently responsive Internet connection.”

While the Proxima wallet bypasses the contact you typically need to make a payment (pull out your card and swipe it) even Proxima needs to tap into another final mile in the payment chain: getting money into your digital wallet in the first place.

Companies like Braintree offer elegant mobile payment systems that let you get cash into your device or put your ‘card’ into your phone. It’s a final little hurdle: getting your customer to trust you enough that they’ll store credit card information on your app.

Some day, I’m sure, Apple will come to the rescue: with 600 million credit cards on file, I can’t imagine there won’t be a day where your Apple ID and the credit card you’ve used to buy iTunes songs won’t also be the easy way to load up a Proxima wallet and buy that donut you know you shouldn’t really have.

It’s The Experience
Util then, companies like Proxima are showing what’s possible with iBeacons and are focusing on the user experience ahead of the hardware. As Nolan says:

“We’ve met a few people tinkering around with beacons but it seems that most people working in the beacons space are working on building the hardware,” he says, meaning the cheap quarter-sized Bluetooth beacon transmitters. “We’re convinced the hardware is going to become commoditized within the next few months, so we want to build the software and systems that help people build cool experiences with the beacons of their choice. I expect we will see more people moving in the beacon space once we have a few examples of how they can be used in the real world. We’re working very hard to make sure those real-world experiences get into the hands of people as soon as possible.”

It’s exciting to be on the early wave of a new technology. And we’re excited to be working with companies like Proxima and others in the “becosystem” who are proving what’s possible.

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