Tag Archives: NFC

service efficiency – managing the wait

South Korean tourists are known to be impatient, represented by the well-known word ‘ppali-ppali’, meaning ‘fast, fast’. Waiting time does play a big role in making a service business a success or a failure. If you can’t make it shorter, you may as well look for other options to make it at least more enjoyable.

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This Call / Bill / Water button set is available on all tables in this cafe in Seoul (Shinsa-dong). Compared to the more typical model of just pressing the button to call the waiter, this eliminates one additional visit to inquire about what the customer wants.

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The opposite example is also found at this self-service cafe chain called pascucci. Once you place your order, you are given this little pager. You go and sit at the table of your choice, instead of waiting around the busy counter. When your drinks are ready to be picked up, it will light up.

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I would rate these two systems high because of their simplicity for use and implementation, requiring minimal modification in the existing infrastructure and workflow knowledge, hence lowering the barrier to the initial adoption. A contrasting example would be McDonalds’ ‘Touch Order’ trial together with SK Telecom. RFID reader was provided to be plugged into the mobile phone to enable ordering through touching the menu, with the bill to be topped up in the phone bill. When the order is ready, a text message is sent to the phone to alert the customer to pick the food up. One reviewer righteously complained: “Ordering was fast indeed. But no one paid attention to my order behind the counter so I ended up getting the food much later.” Managing the human skills and habits will still be the prevalent issue in deploying a service backed by new technology.

gradual dissemination: the usefulness of touch

going through some of my old photos, i noticed how SUICA system, initially rolled out as a public transportation card replacing paper tickets using nfc (near field communication) technology has been gradually introduced in japan.

the copy on the ad above is translated something in the line of “fun transformation of your mobile phone” (photo taken in april 2008).

around march 2006 when this picture was taken, i saw lots of advertisements and posters featuring this penguin character representing suica. all focused on the concept of how suica can be used to pay for the tickets, make small payments at shops instead of cash, and touch interface. for instance, this little penguin character would appear in the tv commercials accompanying a lady traveling alone passing through ticket gates with her, and drinking beer with her at a bar. it was going everywhere with the owner. the penguin also enjoyed the stardom through lots of character goods produced around it – flush toys, key chains, hats, whatever you can imagine.

suica is one of the brand names in japan that does more or less the same thing or using the same technology (like UK’s Oyster card)- which is essentially a cash top-up card. with japan rail behind it, suica had the power to educate the mass about the new interaction method as the benefits were quite clear: no need for queuing to get tickets, less hassle in passing through the crowded ticket gates, fewer reasons to carry coins. the clear benefit primarily as transportation tickets supported the mass adoption as well – though we are still talking about several years. the maturity of adoption brought a few variants as well: registration is now possible so that you can get your money back even though the card is lost; you can link it to your credit card so that it can be automatically charged once the balance goes below a certain point; commuter-pass registration is possible, as most japanese employers reimburse the commuting transportation cost based on the price of the monthly pass.

of course suica and its sister systems have become available on mobile phone for some time (under the name ‘mobile suica’). it seems about 60% of mobile phones in the market supports the function already. my tokyo colleague, Fumiko Ichikawa has a brief report on the current state of adoption in her blog. what is pleasing to observe is the gradual expansion of its use for other purposes than micro cash payments.

ana (all nippon airways) supports several methods for check-in. obviously mobile phone enabled with nfc like mobile suica is one of them.

suipo (suica poster) is launched last summer – it is an advertising platform using mobile suica as interface. people can touch the indicated spot on the advertisement to get the ad on the mobile. or you can use the normal suica card to get the 2-d bar code displayed, a technology that has been around longer in the market. if the boss canned coffee ad does not tempt you as a smart usage of nfc, you can also read about navita, the public maps using the same information distribution system as suipo. as with 2-d bar code, i am not sure how widely this is used at the moment.

from penguins to mobile micro payment to touch-based information distribution: it is a nice example of how a new technology is disseminated in incremental steps, which was a long journey.

i had a chance to probe how chinese people think about touch or near-touch interface a couple of weeks ago. while the metro ticket system in shanghai is same as oyster or suica, most people could not think of any other use of a similar system beyond that. on the other hand, their understanding of bluetooth wireless technology seemed to confuse many people about possibilities and benefits of near field interaction. a remote indication to think about the adoption curve and mass-market education of new technology – with or without a cute penguin’s involvement.

the invisible tag

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the underground / metro ticket in lisbon was surprisingly made out of paper.
i made a mistake of inserting the ticket into the card slot, which was obviously for something else. despite the language barrier, a local guy tried to explain to me how to make the ticket work – i had no clue that it was in fact a RFID based ticket till then. a closer inspection revealed a really tiny bulge on the card – without the support of the graphics printed on the paper. the reader part also lacked the visual cue. perhaps there is a different approach in educating the public about the new technology – or this has matured in lisbon so long that the phase for the public education has long passed. in japan – there have been very elaborate efforts to make people understand the concept of, or at least learn how to use the touchless public transportation cards, like the easily memorable character, life-sized advertisements, and widely distributed instruction manuals.

felica phone ad – docomo

felica phone ad – docomo
Originally uploaded by jabberer.

felica is RFID-based micromoney card.

JR (japan railway) is the big power to attract many other businesses

to join – meaning that users can not only use it to pay for metro

tickets but also at other participating shops. benefits – lighter

commitment (card can be purchased and charged at JR metro/train

stations) and setup overhead than credit card based wallet solutions.