Mobile-App Platform May be Worth the ‘Gimbal’

by Jeffrey Green 0

In my last Perspective post, I suggested that mobilewallets and merchant-loyalty apps unable to automatically open andprovide sufficient information and utility likely will not swaymany consumers from the habit of simply using cards to pay instores. Trying to remember which apps work at which stores andhaving to open them before entering the premises is just too muchof a hassle for consumers to continue to do so for very long.

I recently was introduced to a context-aware platform designed toovercome that problem, at least for Android devices. But in a “BigBrother” sense, the product’s a bit creepy, too. And thatillustrates the difficulty mobile wallets and merchant apps face inovercoming the card-simplicity hurdle: they’re going to require atremendous amount of education and marketing to convince consumersto give up some privacy in exchange for a better shoppingexperience. Many consumers never will be convinced. Remember,merchants generally don’t care about supporting payments frommobile devices; their chief concern is increasing sales byimproving the customer experience, and many see mobile wallets andloyalty apps as being more relevant in helping to achieve thattask.

Through the Gimbal platform from Qualcomm Retail Solutions(formerly known as Firethorn Mobile Inc. and a wholly ownedsubsidiary of Qualcomm Technologies Inc.), iOS and Android appdevelopers have a software development kit that accesses thevarious radios housed in smartphones, including the accelerometerand magnetometer. The platform, which supports both geofencing and”micro-fencing” to increase customer engagement, always is on inthe background. Through use of the phone’s radios-perhaps viaBluetooth or Wi-Fi if indoors-software running Gimbal in thebackground knows the direction the phone is moving and how fast,even when the wallet or other app, or the phone’s GPS function,isn’t running. Gimbal periodically will turn on GPS automaticallyfor a location “quick pick,” then turn the GPS off again, as partof a power-saving function it also supports.

In practice, Gimbal will open an Android app automatically whenpassing a “fence” trigger, such as when entering a participatingstore. For iOS devices, passing through the fence triggers amessage to the phone user to activate the app because Apple todaydoesn’t allow apps to automatically open. Once the user is in thestore, the merchant accesses information specific to the individualthrough the app. In doing so, they may deliver to the phone via thecloud real-time product suggestions, advertisements and discountspecials based on the customers’ past buying experiences. In turn,the merchant also can measure the effectiveness of theinteractions.

To address security concerns, Gimbal is TRUSTe Certified. Itautomatically is updated should any privacy laws change, forexample. Gimbal also doesn’t store information anywhere but in thehandset, and users may go in and delete or suspend any personalinformation they don’t want stored or shared with anyoneelse.

App developers let consumers know about Gimbal in the useragreements. However, most consumers don’t read the agreements sothey likely aren’t aware it’s even on their phones.

Gimbal offers much promise to stores-and advertisers- seeking totarget customers with products and services they most likely wantor need, and that also could make Gimbal valuable to consumers aswell. As noted earlier, communication will play a key role onwhether platforms such as Gimbal’s can survive the inherent “BigBrother” concerns of many consumers. But handled properly, suchplatforms could move mobile wallets and merchant loyalty apps intomainstream use, at least among those willing to give up a bit ofprivacy in exchange for customized deals and discountedoffers.

I’d be interested in hearing your views about this privacy vs.customer-engagement issue and what you believe is necessary todrive broad mobile interest among both consumers and merchants, notto mention financial institutions and processors. Is the ability toinstantly open apps the answer? Please feel free to contact me atjgreen@mercatoradvisorygroup.com.

Follow Jeff Green on Twitter @EPaymentsGuy.