PocketCity: mobile-free NFC at the service of urban tourists
par Elsa Sidawy | 03.29.11
NFC (Near Field Communication) phones are not common yet despite the enthusiasm of telecommunications companies and the conclusive tests made in certain pioneer cities. Olivier Levy, CEO of StrapMedia, has, for his part, anticipated usages by developing the PocketCity platform, which enables to gather various tourist-oriented services into one NFC media.
A cheap and handy tool
An NFC chip card, mobile phone or FlashPop: no matter the object as long as there is content. The FlashPop developed by StrapMedia is a strange UFO in the world of contactless devices: this small badge, which looks quite insignificant, actually is an urban tourist pass with a multitude of associated services. Today the object looks like an audio player that can contain any type of information, displayed in the language chosen by users. More than a traditional audio guide, this little badge also has an NFC chip that will enable the tourist using it to pay his or her fare in public transport, jump the queue at museums thanks to prepaid tickets and maybe soon book a hotel room or have a taxi waiting for him or her at the airport.
What is the point? To gather all these services in order to “make urban travels easier and richer” and, following the principle of dematerialisation, spare tourists ending up with kilos of indigestible leaflets on their hands. The tool also gives the opportunity to warn one’s community in real time through social networks and even to scan the much talked-about QR codes appearing everywhere on the planet in order to reach contents. In brief, the tool offers the advantages of a mobile phone sparing the hassle of communication costs or accounting. The FlashPop is compatible with the current infrastructure of cities.
In view of the two giants of tourist pass distribution, the English Leisure Pass and the American City Pass, the young French company therefore shows infinite inventiveness to provide tourists with this more personalised service. For, according to Olivier Levy, these companies, despite their leading roles on the market, only provide gross service: “they gather what already exists but do not offer full information in the client’s perspective.” StrapMedia therefore anticipates the uses that will be made of NFC but above all chooses to create a privileged relationship with users.
Moreover, the aim is not to replace existing telecommunications companies and urban tourism actors, such as leisure infrastructures, museums, tourist offices, but to collaborate with them by creating a new chain of value: “we are targeting a mass market with the support of local companies,” the businessman explains.
The service will very soon be available on mobile phones fitted with NFC chips but the fact that people will keep using their mobile phones will not dismiss, for Olivier Levy, the prohibitive cost when they use them outside their home countries. “If I go to London, my telecommunications company will charge me 10 Euros for roaming only. The tool we are providing now costs less than 10 Euros.” It is a simple calculation.
In the context of an urban tourism market estimated at 5 billion dollars each year and 188 million tourists in 12 cities equipped with infrastructures compatible with NFC technology, StrapMedia still has its best days ahead of it and the lead so far.
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Translated by Oona Bijasson