Australian Mobile Operator Telstra Expands NFC Tag Campaign
Australia’s largest mobile operator Telstra has expanded its campaign using NFC tags, enabling customers to more easily buy prepaid airtime by tapping their NFC phones on smart posters, announced technology supplier Tapit.
Telstra in July had introduced a couple of other apps using Tapit supplied tags, including offering users a chance to tap for a free trial of MOG, a streaming music service similar to Spotify. Users also could tap to download an app and free offer from Australian TV subscription service Foxtel. The project includes outdoor advertising firm JCDecaux.
The NFC tags take users directly to the offer with no need to type in a URL, noted Tapit CEO Jamie Conyngham. “The idea is that these things become impulse and easy for consumers,” he told NFC Times. “Lots of keystrokes saved.”
The Telstra campaign includes smart posters, window decals, and NFC tags mounted on lanyards worn by Telstra retail store employees in six stores in Melbourne and Sydney. In early October, the campaign will expand to two shopping centers, featuring window decals and installations at food court tables.
The prepaid airtime recharging will be available on posters on 20 phone booths, in addition to a few retail locations.
“The materials have NFC and QR both using Tapit systems, so even people without NFC, like poor Apple users, can participate,” Conyngham said, taking a jab at the absence of NFC capability in Apple’s recently released iPhone 5.
Series A Funding Not Yet Raised
Founded in March 2011, Tapit has since run on its initial seed funding and grants, a total of only A$900,000 (US$940,000). In July, the company was seeking A$8 million in Series A venture capital funding, according to The Wall Street Journal. Fundraising efforts reportedly were to include a late August meeting in Silicon Valley with prospective American investors. Conyngham confirmed those figures.
“With the Series A, it’s still in progress,” Conyngham told NFC Times. He added that Tapit’s fundraising efforts “haven’t needed to go to the U.S. yet,” but gave no indication of why the Silicon Valley trip had apparently been postponed. He declined to release the amount of additional capital, if any, Tapit has raised so far, or identify its investors. So far, the company’s plans appear to be moving forward on an A$900,000 budget with no word yet on Series A funding.
In its recent announcement, Tapit claimed that July’s MOG campaign “conclusively showed that people want to use NFC.”
It is probably too early to conclude that just from an outdoor-advertising campaign offering a trial of a new music-streaming service. But in a slightly related development, Spotify, the Sweden-based music-streaming service, updated its Android app earlier this month to enable users to share music by tapping their phones together if the NFC handsets both support Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich.
Meanwhile, Australia–with one of the world’s highest penetrations of contactless point-of-sale terminals–appears to be prime territory for the launch of NFC-based mobile payment.
Last month, large Australian bank Westpac, along with MasterCard Worldwide, launched an NFC trial that puts a MasterCard PayPass debit application onto SIM cards that run in the Samsung Galaxy S III.
NFC Tags Could Complement Payment
Westpac employees participating in the trial can tap to pay at more than 80,000 contactless point-of-sale terminals in Australia, according to a bank spokeswoman, as well as PayPass terminals elsewhere. The three-month trial involves mobile carrier Optus, a Telstra rival.
Telstra has held at least one NFC-payment trial itself and has expressed interest in a range of other NFC applications. At February’s Broadband and Beyond 2012 conference in Sydney, Telstra’s chief technology officer Hugh Bradlow observed that although contactless payment is important, NFC also can be used for ticketing and replacement of store loyalty cards.
Rather than payment services, Tapit focuses on providing NFC-enabled ads and content delivery. In July, for example, Tapit stated that it was running a trial of its NFC stickers at 250 restaurants in Australia.
And following the Telstra campaign, Tapit told NFC Times that the company has several deals “in the pipeline,” including one about to launch at the Australian Museum in Sydney and one involving Microsoft.