At a launch event today, Jiepang revealed that they have begun trials with using NFC or near field communication with their popular LBS app in China. Put simply, NFC is a wireless technology that triggers a response when a device is put at close range (typically less than 4 cm) from a sensor. In the case of Jiepang, Jiepang will be distributing NFC tags at the Strawberry music festival for users to automatically check in at various offline locations throughout Beijing. No more fumbling with your phone or entering information, it just works.
Larry Kuok, Jiepang’s Director of New Business and Head of Jiepang’s NFC Research and Development demonstrated how the tags work by binding his Jiepang account with his tag and swiping the tag against a reader. It automatically checked him in and sent a message loosely translated from Mandarin saying “Cool! – Congrats on being an early adopter! – You are Checking in with Jiepang using NFC at Wei Bo Zhi Yan. We hope you have a great time using Jiepang”. This definitely has the benefit of speed and simplicity for the user.
Currently Jiepang is the only LBS in China to take advantage of NFC. But we can speculate that many other LBS players will follow suit. Even Amazon is pursuing an NFC strategy to grow its mobile commerce platform. At the moment, the roadmap for NFC is not totally clear, but Yuancheng Yang, co-founder of Jiepang says “we are betting on NFC”. Afterwards, I chatted with Larry and he said that merchants will also have the benefit of knowing if someone used NFC to make a purchase. In the future, this will be valuable data to better understand user behavior and customer loyalty.
Since NFC is relatively new, there are only a handful of phones that are NFC enabled. Jiepang’s tags were distributed to users as a means to accommodate users that don’t have these phones to still participate in NFC events. Jiepang also has Jiepang posters available for those users with NFC enabled phones.
Jiepang will officially launch their NFC feature at this weekend’s Strawberry Music Festival in Beijing by distributing about 1,500 cute Jiepang NFC tags to Jiepang members, which users can use at different bars and live music outlets to receive various discounts.
It will be interesting to see if Foursquare in America will also “check in” to a NFC strategy.