The promise of using your phone as a digital wallet, thanks to small wireless chips called RFID tags, has grabbed the attention of the entire payment-processing industry. The premise is simple: Wave your RFID-equipped phone near a payment terminal to complete a financial transaction. In practice, the logistics of near-field communications (NFC) are still being worked out, with different standards and methods. But XtremeSignPost, a biotechnology firm in Davis, Calif., is betting that wireless mobile commerce will take root. Today, the company announced a patent award to advertise commercial products through the use of RFID technology:
The patent discloses a novel, mobile method to advertise commercial products. In this process, RFID-enabled cell phones are used to recall and share consumer experiences from personalized RFID-tagged consumer products. The claims include methods to personalize and advertise commercial products such as postcards, tickets, fishing lures, surfboards, skis, snowboards, clothing, and vehicles. The claims comprise of [sic] an RFID based method to share and disseminate information such as trademarks, brand names, company names, or copyrighted material from personalized items.
As interesting as paying for items using a small wireless chip in a handset sounds to someone who doesn’t carry cash — like me, for example — XtremeSignPost appears to be pushing beyond using RFID tags for simple payment processing. After reading the news of the patent, I couldn’t understand exactly what the company had in mind, but then I caught this interesting tidbit from the press release: “XtremeSignPost links memories in the form of videos, photos, and audio files to RFID-tagged products.”
Linked memories sounds far-fetched and futuristic, but the concept isn’t beyond the realm of possibility, if you equate memories with user-generated content such as images and videos captured with a mobile phone. XtremeSignPost calls this the “Internet of Experiences.” Take the example of a video recorded during a fishing trip in Fiji: By associating the visual “memory” with an RFID-tagged fishing lure used on the excursion, a phone swipe near the lure would recall and playback the experience.
Although XtremeSignPost plans to leverage the technology for targeted advertising, the RFID linkage to memories could apply to other user-generated content too. An RFID-enabled restaurant menu could show the specials on your cell phone, and those specials could be changed in the kitchen if a dish is no longer available. Or you could be shopping at a brick-and-mortar store for the latest camera but unsure of which one to purchase; one swipe of the phone could reveal user reviews or sales data to show the most popular models. Scanning an RFID-tagged physical object could even post relevant information on Twitter, quickly sharing information about real items with friends in the online world.
RFID and near-field communications technology still isn’t mainstream, but it has been gathering momentum as analysts predict mobile payments will top $633 billion by 2015. Visa began to test wireless payment solutions in August, and wireless carriers in the U.S. are banding together to create their own mobile commerce system called ISIS.
Focusing on the payment platform is a smart move for all these companies, but new ways to advertise and recall valuable information, not to mention memories, are a solid investment, too. In either case, XtremeSignPost is ready; the company says advertisements powered by this linked memory technology will work seamlessly with Nokia’s Symbian, Apple’s iPhone, ISIS Mobile Payment, and Google’s Android Gingerbread platforms.
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