By Stéphane Doutriaux, Founder & CPO, Poken.
In the past few years a number of Startups have successfully grown new low-cost SaaS offerings that are disrupting the market. Old-timers like IBM (FileNet), EMC (Documentum), Microsoft (SharePoint) are facing new competition from the likes of Alfresco, box.net, Egnyte, Dropbox, etc. These traditionally hardware-intensive services have successfully moved to the cloud, and achieved the scalability and reliability expected from the toughest enterprise customers.
This reflects an emerging trend that hardware be associated with a service – an attempt at making complex technology disappear, in favor of simple and clean configuration interfaces. Such an evolution puts powerful technologies in the hands of more people, increasing opportunities and overall business growth.
When will NFC finally hit the market?
People often ask of NFC “When will it finally hit the market”? A question whose answer is not straightforward, as Near Field Communication is a technology that, without being associated with a service, does not provide utility in itself. Following the trend driven by cloud computing, only recently have end-to-end solutions started appearing, using NFC as part of new and exciting value propositions.
Poken is leading the way with an end-to-end platform that combines cloud-based services that manage content, devices that help integrate users and function, and mobile UIs that extend the reach and manageability of it all. NFC is a small yet powerful piece that sits in the middle, providing the soul of a full-featured touch-based experience.
We refer to Poken’s offering as a “Content Management System, for NFC”. How can Poken’s platform be characterized? What is the role of a CMS in deploying touch-based services? And How has Poken overcome the market challenges inherent to NFC, to achieve its lead?
Read on for answers.
What is Content Management System (CMS) for NFC?
A Content Management System is a tool that allows to publish and edit content, but also offers the possibility to manage and maintain the workflows and administration rules that permit working collaboratively on the content creation, modification, and reporting.
NFC is a technology standard which, just like Bluetooth, has many applications. Dozens of solutions providers have built applications that use NFC technology. These include some that relate to payment (the “wallets”), some to access control, to ticketing, to social data exchange, or to media delivery (such as advertising and games).
A Content Management System “for NFC” is one that addresses the needs of the content owners, administrators, and consumers, as relate more specifically to the constraints and opportunities linked to Near Field Communication technology.
NFC, again like Bluetooth, can be useful to mobile and desktop users depending on the application. A full-featured CMS should address the use cases experienced by both user types. It must therefore deliver data compatible with mobile web use, and with desktop web or desktop application use. Furthermore, the CMS needs to address the administration needs of those involved in deploying and managing NFC-powered applications, which again may be mobile, desktop, or cloud-based.
In addition to the customer’s media content, the CMS hosts all the structural, relational, encryption, validation, and control data that allows for the secure administration, transfer, and display of media in customer-specific and context-aware situations. Depending on the applications covered, these can vary from collecting a coupon from a smart-poster to collecting a highly confidential financial report in a corporate boardroom or medical event, or paying for a purchase in a shop and validating a transport fare.
A “Content Management System for NFC” seeks to address the data management aspects of one or a multitude of the applications made possible by NFC, on both a user and administrator level – making the use of NFC technology, in the application’s context, accessible to non-tech users (marketing professionals, consultants, project managers, or the general public). The CMS must provide a hierarchical data administration model and the tools that correspond to the reality of data ownership within an enterprise context.
Poken’s CMS for NFC
Poken’s Content Management System for NFC provides the tools needed by market professionals seeking to benefit from the simplicity of the “touch” offered by NFC. Our CMS covers a growing number of NFC-driven applications: Poken established its presence in the market initially with social information exchange applications (business card exchange using touch), and our tools have evolved to provide complete campaign-management capabilities for trade-shows and events, offering the possibility to replace all paper media such as flyers, catalogs, etc. with touch-based digital collection (a “green” solution).
Our tools now also cover advertising and brand-engagement applications: We have equipped brands with coupon issuance and redemption capabilities, and a location-based gaming engine that includes unlocking achievements and building scavenger-hunt type user engagement activities. Our CMS is also evolving to cater to micro-payment and access-control uses, all driven by customer requests, and built as a platform that offers scalability and is used in a replicable fashion across all customer deployments.
Deploying “touch-based” campaigns
Poken’s enterprise-grade Partner Tools have been used by hundreds of market professionals within Poken’s “Partner Network” who deployed over 400 unique “touch-based” campaigns in 2011, each ranging from several hundred to tens of thousands of users. Partners undergo training to obtain certifications that afford them increased rights and capabilities when accessing features in Poken’s CMS.
Poken’s CMS fully supports mobile-phone based NFC campaigns (today mainly through our mobile member hub at m.poken.com), but our uniqueness comes from supporting NFC devices (pokens ®) which complete the “touch” ecosystem that, in our experience, is needed to justify the customer’s expenditures for using “touch” as a means of achieving better results in their business.
Poken’s lead as the most widely used CMS for NFC is affirmed by our cross-device and cross-technology approach (supporting the highest level of compatibility between mobile NFC, USB NFC devices, and QR), which emanates from our desire to answer our customers’ objectives while being flexible on technology (1). In the company’s 4 years of seeing customers deploy “touch” using our CMS, we have found that their business objectives are best answered when the solution supports non-NFC-mobile-phone users as well as the “early adopters” of NFC mobile phones. Indeed, many of the largest opportunities for “touch based” services are only justifiable budget-wise if they can engage close to 100% of the target user group.
Full market adoption of an NFC-mobile-phone lifestyle will not happen in the coming many years (2) so we expect the mixed-technology approach to continue being the most successful for the foreseeable future. This is why we have also built it intrinsically into our CMS. The vast majority of our customers use our platform in a context where 100% of the target consumers are equipped to benefit from the service (through mobile phones or USB devices). This allows the sponsor to shift an entire budget from an existing cost-center, replacing an old way of providing a specific service, to a new way using “touch” to deliver an enhanced version of the same service, though achieving better results.
NFC deployments and trials around the world
A short study of the list of non-Poken NFC deployments and trials around the world (3), where content is provided in a structured manner and metrics are an important objective, shows that they have rarely engaged more than 1’500 participants (mainly due to the low penetration of NFC mobile phones, and thus the high cost of equipping participants with a new phone for the trial).
With over 1 million devices sold (and excluding pokenMOBILE apps pre-installed on many Nokia NFC phones), we believe it is fair to state that Poken’s is the leading CMS used for deploying NFC (as relates to the types of applications catered to by a CMS).
Furthermore, customers using Poken’s CMS have in some instances reported average engagement levels reaching beyond 17 touches per day over a contiguous 9 day period (for an install base in the thousands of users, and in a context where a real service is being delivered, not where NFC is being trialed as a technology). This level of use far outruns any non-Poken NFC trial whose results have been published. In recent participant surveys conducted by big-name customers in the US, ratings of the utility of the service managed by Poken’s CMS came through with 95% of respondents selecting either “Excellent” or “Good”, and over 90% of respondents rating the overall experience provided by Poken as “Loved it” or “Liked it”.
Poken’s partners and customers include for example Standard Register Healthcare’s team of marketers, who have been trained on the Poken CMS to deploy NFC in hospitals, clinics, and medical industry trade-shows. Showcare, MCI, and other providers of integrated data solutions for tradeshows, events, and brand communities use Poken’s CMS to deploy NFC for industrial customers like ABB, Novartis, IBM and SAP. Momentum, Gluu, and other leading full-service interactive agencies use Poken’s Partner Tools to deploy NFC for the likes of AMEX, South Africa Tourism, and others seeking to enhance consumer engagement through touch.
While on the Web there is increased chatter about Content Management Systems for NFC, as far as we are aware no company other than Poken provides regular corporate trainings, and access to enterprise-grade tools that enable non-tech professionals to deploy NFC.
A first level of training on Poken’s CMS is delivered monthly in different cities around the world through the NFC Bootcamp™ (4).
(1) This is why we created our range of NFC+ devices that can be easily and cost-effectively deployed in large-scale campaigns. Poken’s NFC+ USB devices and tags are fully compatible with NFC Forum Type 4 specifications (thus compatible with NFC mobile phones and readers), and also include a more low-power device-to-device communication mode for improved energy efficiency and functionality.
(2) While sales of mobile handsets that support NFC is increasing, surrounded by much hype, the reality is that the use of NFC will not reach significant proportion (60%, 70% or more in a given segment or location), anytime soon. As is seen with QR code use, one should not expect that a high number of people equipped with an NFC-enabled phone necessarily leads to engaged, every-day use of the NFC features built in the phone. A phone’s primary uses are, after all, not directly related to the features made possible by NFC. As a parallel, even though practically all phones today support reading QR codes (they have a camera built in), the engagement metrics of practically all QR code use cases are lower than would justify any significant investment in that technology (in closed environments such as trade-shows, where valuable services could be offered using QR codes, statistics show that the highest proportion of QR-code-enabled event-specific apps are downloaded by up to a maximum of 30% of participants, but of those only one third actually use the app ONCE at the event, and only 3% use it “more than once”). NFC and QR codes on mobile phones remain a “nice to have”, supplementing other ways of achieving the same outcomes. See also http://www.bcs.org/content/conWebDoc/44639?mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRoivajAZKXonjHpfsX%2B4uQlUaCg38431UFwdcjKPmjr1YIHSsp0dvycMRAVFZl5nRVZFOuQeYdS9eBN
(4) Trademark owned by OTA Trainings. Refer to www.nfcbootcamp.com