Payment is All in the Wrist at Austin City Limits 2014

The Austin City Limits (ACL) Festival in Texas always brings with it plenty of fanfare for the bands, the food, and the atmosphere, but this year’s festival brought a new experience into the mix, using my wrist as a wallet. The wrist band is commonplace for multi-day music festivals — my husband Brent and I have been going to ACL since 2005, when they still used flimsy paper wrist bands (that could be easily removed, passed around people for attending different days). Last year, the festival broke into a 2 weekend format and also introduced the registered wristband, which you used to get into ACL and could check-in at places throughout the festival.

This year, the fob on your wristband not only identified you as the ticket holder, but you could also designate a credit card for purchases. In all my years of going to ACL, this little improvement was one I couldn’t have been more thrilled about because it meant 3 things: 1. Not having to rely on the piddly 2 ATMs they drag out to the park for cash in case you run out, 2. The lines for food and beverages should fly by since you aren’t having to wait on folks to dig their cards or their cash out of whatever bookbag, purse or pocket, and 3. You couldn’t lose your money because it’d be attached to your wrist. (Though it’s never happened to me, I have no doubt in the sea of people, it’s easy for a wallet to get misplaced or for it to meet an unfortunate end during a porta-potty visit.)

The skeptic in me couldn’t help but be hesitant about the actual execution, but was thrilled with the prospects. Before we left, we registered our wristbands online, linked a credit card and created a PIN number. Easy peasy. (There was also a tent at the festival with dedicated helpers that could get your credit card linked on site)

Sure enough, at Weekend 1 (October 3—5), the wristbands worked like a charm. We used them to buy t-shirts, beverages, food and other souvenirs throughout the festival grounds — watch the video above to see just how simple the process was. The cashier selects your items ordered on a touch screen, you hold your wrist fob over a designated area until it’s read, the cashier flips the screen over so you can enter your PIN, add a tip if so desired, and that’s it; a receipt of purchase is emailed to the address on your account. Done and done.

This particular system is powered by Best Ring POS, which is a web-based mobile POS company based out of Austin, TX. Though the interface is designed for bar and food, it worked perfectly for purchasing non-food items. However, it does not include a method for returning items; luckily, the ACL staff had an easy solve for it for the time being, cash. While not ideal for tracking inventory levels and all that, for a 3-Day festival, the inventory levels are going to be what they are until you sell out of an item. Only once did the wristband system fail while we were purchasing food and that seemed to be a rarity among our friends who used the system, too.

Overall, I absolutely loved using just the tap of my wrist to make purchases and this particular method is just one of many in the emerging field of virtual wallets. From Apple’s iPay Mobile (mobile device via cloud as wallet) to Coin and Plastc (one card to contain all your cards) and everything in between. The overall benefits to brands and retailers are huge because it’s so easy to forget that you are spending real money, your money, making that hurdle of building the basket not quite so high.

However, I do have concerns. Given that now when I accidentally leave my phone on the nightstand instead of putting it in my purse or pocket, I feel like an appendage is missing, I can only imagine what kind of convulsions I might have if it were my only wallet and I left it at home, or even worse, lost it. So, I have mixed feelings about my wallet solely living on my mobile device, however I think it would be great to have in the mix of options. As smart technologies for watches become smarter and smarter, I have no doubt we’ll see a full day-to-day integrated wrist wearables and the possibilities of what they could encompass are endless. Think corporate key cards, car keys and even house keys, giving the old metal ones a heave ho! Public transportation paid with a flick of the wrist. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s all around the corner and I can’t wait.



Test Drive for McDonald’s Happy Table

Venturing into new territory, a McDonald’s in Yishun, Singapore is testing driving a new form of in-store entertainment with the Happy Table. With the help of NFC (near field communication) stickers placed on the underside of the table, DDB Group Singapore is bringing a new playing field for games to the restaurant.

As shown in the video, people, in this case children, can use smartphones to communicate with the NFC stickers to play games across the table. A whole new world of gaming becomes easily accessible and unveils another excuse for families to linger a little longer in the restaurant, maybe to grab one more drink while they’re hanging out. And while I’d like to think such a game might allow for more peace at the table, I can’t help but wonder how this pans out when the number of children outnumbers the number of smartphones available in Mom’s purse. But I digress.

The simplicity of this technology, from the installation of simple stickers to the basic methods of playing the games, make the Happy Table seem like a no-brainer. Once this pilot program at the single location ends, rollout plans are in the works to spread to more McDonald’s across Asia. How long with it take for the Happy Table to cross the pond to the states? No dates confirmed as of yet.

NFC has not hit mainstream USA, though with every new iPhone or latest mobile phone release, people anxiously await for NFC capabilities to be incorporated. However, it’s easy to see that NFC is drawing closer and closer on the horizon. An NFC-driven concept like the Happy Table could easily be translated into any number of ways. Perhaps, Barnes & Noble could incorporate NFC to its play tables at story time or Starbucks could implement simple games into its tables, with varying games that could appeal to children or to the procrastinating college student taking a study break.

Along those lines, why not have these NFC stickers strategically-placed by the sitting areas in malls, near chairs/tables placed for resting in retailers, or at the beverage station in a convenience store etc, all with the purpose of quick games to increase engagement with their surroundings, when people might otherwise disengage into Facebook posts or their own games or texting their friends. Because at the end of the day, it’s the engagement that will keep your store/product/brand top of mind and keep them coming back for more.

Credits: Youtube, DDB Group Singapore, FastCo