It's always fun to come across a new and valuable application of indoor location technology. For the most part, indoor location is fairly straightforward: Figure out a person's location (or their phone's), put it on a map, and enable navigation and all sorts of other services based on their location, similar to outdoor GPS services. But every now and then a truly innovative application comes along.
Israel-based WiseSec is using their indoor location positioning technology to enable "NFC-like" mobile payments without NFC. This means that non-NFC phones can be used in an NFC-like manner, swiping against a sensor at a point-of-sale to make a secure payment.
WiseSec's indoor location technology is based on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons, which enable BLE-enabled smartphones to track their location. The company claims that 50-60 such beacons can cover a 100,000 square-foot site - obviously more beacons means more accuracy. With enough beacons, their system can reportedly deliver sub-meter accuracy. One of their beacons, still in development, is shown here. The company specializes in indoor LBS and navigation, location-based mobile security and cyber protection, and mobility customer experience technologies for the retail market.
Other companies have used Bluetooth and BLE for indoor location positioning. We've blogged before about technology from Quuppa and Pole Star, and our in-depth report analyzes research by many other companies as well. Motorola (and now Google) has a granted patent that covers some aspects of this approach.
But WiseSec is using these same beacons for mobile payments. Instead of NFC-enabled phones swiping near NFC sensors, a BLE-enabled smartphone with WiseSec software can be swiped near their BLE beacon, and make a transaction upon sensing the very close distance. Just like NFC. Their system tracks the phone's movement, and are accurate enough to detect when phones are within 10cm of a sensor. (Their accuracy apparently increases as phones get closer to sensors.)
We wrote almost a year ago that mobile payments can be easy and secure even without NFC. As we wrote then, Paypal is working heavily in that area. The key question is always how the app on the handset knows how much to pay and to who, in the absence of NFC. WiseSec's approach seems to address this well.
WiseSec has been operating until now in the area of military and enterprise security, and is only now moving into commercial markets. The mobile payments we've described are not their central focus - they're offering a full range of indoor location services as well. We look forward to seeing WiseSec's technology reach market, and also to seeing whether indoor location infrastructure can provide a strong solution for mobile payments.
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