Patent Monkey: Nokia Wants You to Throw Away Your Wallet

Let’s face it, RFID has had a lot of hype in the past four years, but has failed to find its way into our everyday lives and pocketbooks. Case in point: Mobile Phones using RFID. Nokia announced its new JV, Venyon Oy, in hopes of becoming a major player using Near Field Communication (NFC) to build a cell phone ‘swipe-to-pay’ feature.

While Apple receives praise for connecting the dots with iTunes and iPod, RFID technology is a market that has many dots scattered around in need of a Steve Jobs. Could Nokia Chairman Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo be the leading force for wider RFID adoption? An 800-pound gorilla and a few interesting ideas are where it starts…

Wal-Mart spearheaded a slow campaign for RFID as a means to scrape costs out of its supply chain. While this could have been innovative and a tipping point on its own, CEO Lee Scott pushed the responsibility for profit justification and cool new applications onto its vendors. As a result, years have passed and little has become of the initiative outside of distribution advancements.


As the buzz ramped up, some interesting technologies have begun to show…

Motorola Liquid Media
In 2004, Motorola eluded to an RFID-based technology allowing personalized media delivery based on wearing an RFID chip and environmental readers that could relay customized music or videos upon your presence. Motorola has been in the RFID arena (list of Moto-RFID patents) for some time, but has failed to connect RFID to cell phones. While Liquid Media is an interesting concept, not much noise has happened since its early announcement. Add a comment if you’ve tracked the project and can provide some insight.

Personalized Media Distribution
Frederick Lowe invented methods for integrating RFID with customized media experiences. For example, he notes using RFID “to provide a unique identification to a RFID reader which in turn provides for a personalized message to be played back by a gas pump electronic interface unit.” This idea gets much cooler when taken in the scope of his total invention, including customized messages from celebrities inserting key personalized words, such as “utilizing a celebrity voice to announce “[user name] your [relative type] is calling”, where [user name] is the user’s name spoken in the voice of a celebrity and [relative type] is selected from the list of {brother, mother, father, son, etc.}.”

Cell Phone Swipe for Cash
Diebolt (yes, the ATM and voting system company) has already envisioned the concept of using a wireless notification device as a means to get cash from an ATM (applications dating back to 1998).

Cell Phone + Product = Loyalty Rewards
Philips recently received a patent that takes a further step on RFID tags which combines the idea that if you had an RFID to identify your personal information, such as from a loyalty card, along with a product, that you could then get special rewards by the combination of reading the two tags, such as a store can approach a buyer of “wine … using the joint information determines from [a store’s] data base that the user is a regular customer and normally buys red wine. In response to this, the data base calls up data relating to advertising and/or any special offers relating to red wine.”

Wrapping Up
These early, mostly prototype examples show that companies are investing to find value-add RFID applications. While some interesting digital wallet and personalization technology moves along at a reasonable pace, infrastructure items such as placing RFID chips into item-level packaging, embedding readers/tags in our phones and facilitating transactions on a series of networks are taking quite a bit of time to come along. All this despite Wal-Mart forcing the issue. Perhaps Nokia can use Venyon to find a way to integrate retail, financial systems and its phones for an seamless user experience much in the way Apple connected the music industry into one clean system.