Pumps to deliver more than just gas

Fill ‘er up may take on a new meaning at the gas pump after Ten Square officially rolls out its point-of-sale network this week.

Called the OuterNet network, the system will allow drivers to do everything from downloading a coupon for a free cup of coffee from the receipt printer on the pump to selecting MP3 and video files from the dispenser screen and downloading them wirelessly. The aim is to achieve this in the approximately 240 seconds that it takes the average gas tank to fill.

With deals already in place with all the leading petroleum companies, including BP Amoco PLC, Texaco Inc., and Chevron Corp., and all of the gas dispenser manufacturers, including Tokheim Corp., Marconi PLC, and Dresser Wayne, Ten Square is projecting reaching 150 million consumers by the end of 2001.

CEO Scott Slinker sees his company as the Microsoft of point-of-sale devices.

“It is true we are positioned similar to a Microsoft, not necessarily a bad thing, as long as our system is open. Anyone can sign on as long as they are certified. We put the power in the hands of the merchant and the consumer,” Slinker said.

In order to get their marketing message on gas pumps, ATM and vending machines, and screen-based credit card verifiers, content providers will partner with Ten Square in a revenue-sharing model.

However, the revenue sharing goes beyond a two-way partnership, Slinker said. Partnerships and revenue-sharing relationships will be created between almost all of the participants including the gas station owner, the gas pump maintenance service provider, the petroleum company, as well as Ten Square and the content provider.

Ten Square is concentrating its network – which consists of the interactive point-of-sale device, a local server at the gas station, and Ten Square’s global processing center – on what it calls petroleum facilities, rather than old-fashioned gas stations. A petroleum facility usually includes a convenience store and a fast food restaurant. The difference in scale between the two categories is dramatic. While the average gas station pumps 1.3 million gallons of gas a year, a recent survey of pumps owned by Wal-Mart at their locations indicated Wal-Mart pumps dispense 1.3 million gallons in a single month, Slinker said.

“But convenience store operators want to do more than sell gas. They want to drive customers into the store,” Slinker said.

The store and the major brands such as Coke, Nabisco, and Colgate will use the Ten Square network to provide marketing content in the form of coupons, loyalty points for purchases, personalized news, and giveaways on pumps and ATM and vending machines at the petroleum facilities.

On Monday the company will also announce a deal with Sensoria, in Rancho Bernardo, Calif., makers of embedded networking systems for the auto industry. Sensoria is currently piloting its in-vehicle AutoWINS network with a number of auto OEMs and will roll it out this summer. The partnership will allow consumers who pull up to a Ten Square-enabled pump to download MP3 and video files at 11Mbps through a wireless RF 2.4GHz connection.

“It is the convenience store that has the RF wireless access and it paints the entire retail footprint at the gas station including the pumps,” said Brian Davis, vice president of marketing for Sensoria.

An MP3 file can be downloaded from the Ten Square-enabled pump to the Sensoria-enabled car in about 1 minute. In addition, 15 minutes of coming movie attractions or local video events can be downloaded in about a minute as well, Davis said.

The Sensoria network also aggregates more than 300 diagnostic touchpoints inside the car. Using the high bandwidth of Ten Square, AutoWINS can send relevant diagnostic information from the car to the pump’s screen. Consumers might receive messages that tell them that an oil change is needed, a gas cap was left off, or the tires are incorrectly inflated.

The true value add of the Ten Square technology for its partners comes from its algorithms, which monitor behavior over time and readjust marketing programs accordingly.

“We manage the time that the consumer sees certain things in a POS [point-of-sale] environment. We build into the network Elapsed Time Management. ETM is not an issue on the Internet, but we deal with idle time consumers have,” said Eugene Buechele, chief technology officer at Ten Square in San Jose, Calif.

ETM technology resides on the individual servers located on the convenience store.

“We weight the apps based on time available and what is most desirable for that class of consumer. The system creates a local profile of different types of consumer. A consumer profile might include one [consumer] who visits between 6:30 and 8:30 in [the morning and] only buys premium gas at the pump. The system also monitors the types of services [these profiled customers] are always interested in, such as fast food or coffee. By their behavior at the gas pump and knowing the time slot, we identify the type of consumer and adjust the content,” Buechele said.