The News – 07/26/01
Well, it’s been a long time coming to this country, but Nokia,
2Scoot (stupid name alert) and Sodexho have debuted wireless, cashless
payments at Nokia’s Irving, TX campus cafeteria. The scheme uses Radio
Frequency Identification (RFID), which I’ve been yammering about in the TrendSpot for
some time. You know those decorated cell phone faceplates you can get?
Nokia’s got a new model called a SmartCover, which incorporates a 2Scoot
RFID tag. The SmartCover identifies the user to the 2Scoot backend system
and links to a customer's existing credit card, authorizing and clearing
payment in less than a second.
A nice trick, but let me know when you’ve got the system
Bluetooth-enabled. While this is a good first step toward a mobile cash
solution, it requires quite a lot of setup to work. The vendor needs to
implement 2Scoot’s hardware and software systems. Customers need to
purchase SmartCovers and install them on their phones. Plus, the phones
need to be Nokia phones and despite the fact that Nokia is the number one
cell phone maker, there are those of us who carry other brands. The whole
setup is a bit too proprietary to become ubiquitous. But hooking up with
Sodexho is a savvy move by Nokia.
The food service company is the leading provider of food and
facilities management in the U.S. and Canada, with $4.7 billion in annual
sales. NPR listeners may recognize the company as Sodexho Marriott, a heavy
public radio contributor. The company was a joint effort with Marriott, but
all shares were recently purchased by Sodexho Alliance, the global number
one food service company operating in 70 countries. The company pioneered
their FastPass service, which allows customers to pay via prepurchased meal
passes. We can expect Sodexho Alliance to roll the wireless solution out to
its other operations if the Nokia campus trial is a success.
No lines at the checkout counter would be pretty cool, but I
wonder how much time this solution will actually save. The RFID tag is
activated when placed in the scanner's radio frequency field, which is
typically 2 to 8 inches wide. So unlike the recent TV commercials featuring
a guy breezing out of a supermarket, paying via SmartCover involves digging
your cell phone out and moving it through the scanning field. And I assume
a human still needs to tally up the bill. RFID tags in the food, now that
would be something.
While we’re at it, a pet peeve: Nokia cranks out more press releases than
pretty much any company I follow, but their press section on their Web site
never is up to date. They are not alone in this by any means. Perhaps by
the time you read this they’ll have gotten around to post the PR.
One more pet peeve: incomprehensible navigation on corporate
sites. The Sodexho, Inc. site
is OK – at least they had the PR posted. But the Sodexho Alliance site is another
triumph of design over utility. I merely wanted to find out how big Sodexho
is and how many cafeterias they manage worldwide. Couldn’t do it. Get a
clue, Web site designers. Try to organize a site so people who have real
questions about the company can find the answers. The Sodexho Alliance site
did have a FAQ section, with all of three questions in it, one about the chairman’s
succession plans. Yeah, that one was uppermost on my mind; thanks for
Bottom line: Nokia’s scheme will probably work fine for
employee cafeterias and other relatively controlled situations (but
probably won’t fly in another Sodexho business: running correctional
facilities). It’s unclear if Nokia’s SmartCover solution is vendor-specific
or whether it can work with other merchants. (Peeve: a search for
SmartCover on Nokia’s site turned up nothing. Great branding.) However,
what’s really needed is some kind of wireless wallet solution where a
previous relationship with the vendor is not necessary. Being the privacy
advocate that I am, I would prefer a solution that does not require the
wireless user to give up more information than he or she would if paying by
- Famous Last Words: Boston Globe writer Beth Healy recently wrote a
grimly funny column about some of the hyperbole surrounding the
dot-coms (dot-com is now in Webster’s dictionary, but I
don’t like the hyphenated spelling) in their heyday. Among the pompous
fastest growing industry in the world is the least risky thing to
invest in.” David Wetherell, CMGI, now trading at $2.50
”What you have to understand is that we are very, very smart.”
WebVan executive, which stupidly went under recently.
To show that hubris is still alive and well, though, witness the
remarks of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner John Doerr in
speech: “I'm here today with something of an apology,” presumably
for the whole dot-com boom and resulting bust. Or perhaps just for his
famous quote, calling the Internet boom “the largest legal creation of
wealth in the history of the planet.” (Doerr predicted the downturn
would last through 2002, our favorite year.)
Boston Globe (it’ll cost
Are Hot: Think
B2C eCommerce is dead? Nielsen//NetRatings says consumers spent $556
million at online auction sites in May, up 149 percent from the
preceding year and up 65 percent from the preceding month. How’s that
for growth? Not surprisingly, eBay remains the leader, with its share growing
from 57.8 percent last year to 64.3 percent. Both Yahoo and Amazon
have struggled to make headway in the auction market, but my personal
favorite, uBid, increased its share
from 9.1 percent last year to 14.7 percent.
- Invisible Copyright Infringement: This is a weird one: Women.com’s
site, InternetHoroscopes.com, apparently reproduced text from horoscope
site EasyScopes.com in white letters on a white background on every
page of the site. Why? So search engines would take notice and
increase InternetHoroscopes’ ranking in listings. Euregio.net,
EasyScopes.com’s parent, is suing for a million Euros, despite the
fact that the offending text has been removed. White text on a white
background is a well-known trick to try to influence search engines.
Since most search engines give higher weight to text actually found on
pages (vs. text placed in META tags, for example), site designers sometimes
place invisible text on their pages. However, since this procedure
became common, many search engines discount text that is invisible due
to font and background colors. Want to see what Web site designers are
doing to increase the ranking of their pages? Try using the View
Source command in your browser. Note particularly any text in a META
YorkTimes (registration required)
Can’t Get Enough of ME?
In the unlikely event
that you want more of my opinions, I’ve started a Weblog. It’s the
fashionable thing for pundits to do, and I’m doing it too. A Weblog is a
datestamped collection of somewhat random thoughts and ideas assembled on a
Web page. If you’d like to subject the world to your thoughts, as I do, you
can create your own Weblog. You need to have a Web site that allows you FTP
access, and the free software from www.blogger.com.
This allows you to right click on a Web page and append your pithy thoughts
to your Weblog.
I’ve dubbed my Weblog
entries “Stratlets”, and they are available at www.stratvantage.com/stratlets/.
Let me know what you think. Also check out the TrendSpot for ranking of
the latest emerging trends.
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