nTrust gets another way subscribers can find retailers using its service

A Vancouver mobile payment platform is partnering with a maker of wireless sensors for retail stores to deliver context and micro-location data to smart phones.

nTrust Group announced its deal Tuesday with San Francisco’s Estimote, whose stylish pastel-coloured Beacons uses Bluetooth Smart technology transmit location signals from nearby merchants — things like welcome messages or coupons. The idea is the devices would also signal passers-by that a merchant is nTrust-enabled.

nTrust says the partnership is the first fully integrated contactless, proximity-based mobile payment solution in the Canadian marketplace.

“We offer a proximity type interface so users can see who’s around them,” Rod Hsu, CXO of nTrust, told IT World Canada. “They can locate nearby merchants instantly through the nTrust app in real time. They can interact with the merchants as they get closer to the store location or as they walk through the store. The user can interact with the merchant and make purchases without even having to be at the counter or produce a credit card.”

Estimote Beacons, like the one on the right, send messages from retailers
Estimote Beacons, like the one on the right, send messages from retailers

Estimote devices have a built-in Bluetooth 4.0 chip, also called a BLE (Bluetooth low energy). Each can run for up to two years on a single battery. The hardware is covered with a soft silicone housing with an adhesive that enables it to adhere to wood, concrete, or glass. The beacons transmit 2.4 GHz Bluetooth signals, similar to residential WiFi, to communicate with smartphones up to 200 feet away.

Transactions occur over a secure connection to nTrust servers via Wi-Fi or cellular. The nTrust back end already incorporates banking level security standards, Hsu says. Merchants send a request to the nTrust member for the amount owed, and the member pays from funds in their nTrust account.

nTrust users don’t need to have credit cards with them to make purchases, and the small businesses the new system is targeted to won’t require card readers, Hsu says. The company is currently marketing the new technology to small business “micromerchants,” the kinds of businesses that aren’t always able to adopt the full range of technologies needed to support credit card transactions – let alone pay the associated charges.

“In an age where instantaneity is key, we wanted to elevate consumer experience by creating a seamless shopping experience for our members,” Hsu says. “Using the Estimote-powered nTrust mobile app, members will be able to locate merchants, walk up to them, and complete a transaction – all through a few clicks on their phone and within seconds.”

nTrust merchants receive a complimentary Estimote Beacon. More detailed customer targeting can be accomplished by locating multiple beacons in specific store areas, so that the nTrust app knows if the user is in the jeans section, for example. Contextual advertising? Not yet, but Hsu says “the hooks are all there.”

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