StratVantage Consulting, LLC — Mike’s Take on the News 07/26/01

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StratVantage Consulting, LLC — Mike’s Take on the News 07/26/01

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The News – 07/26/01

Wireless and Cashless

Well, it’s been a long time coming to this country, but Nokia, 2Scoot (stupid name alert) and Sodexho have debuted wireless, cashless payments at Nokia’s Irving, TX campus cafeteria. The scheme uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), which I’ve been yammering about in the TrendSpot for some time. You know those decorated cell phone faceplates you can get? Nokia’s got a new model called a SmartCover, which incorporates a 2Scoot RFID tag. The SmartCover identifies the user to the 2Scoot backend system and links to a customer’s existing credit card, authorizing and clearing payment in less than a second.

A nice trick, but let me know when you’ve got the system Bluetooth-enabled. While this is a good first step toward a mobile cash solution, it requires quite a lot of setup to work. The vendor needs to implement 2Scoot’s hardware and software systems. Customers need to purchase SmartCovers and install them on their phones. Plus, the phones need to be Nokia phones and despite the fact that Nokia is the number one cell phone maker, there are those of us who carry other brands. The whole setup is a bit too proprietary to become ubiquitous. But hooking up with Sodexho is a savvy move by Nokia.

The food service company is the leading provider of food and facilities management in the U.S. and Canada, with $4.7 billion in annual sales. NPR listeners may recognize the company as Sodexho Marriott, a heavy public radio contributor. The company was a joint effort with Marriott, but all shares were recently purchased by Sodexho Alliance, the global number one food service company operating in 70 countries. The company pioneered their FastPass service, which allows customers to pay via prepurchased meal passes. We can expect Sodexho Alliance to roll the wireless solution out to its other operations if the Nokia campus trial is a success.

No lines at the checkout counter would be pretty cool, but I wonder how much time this solution will actually save. The RFID tag is activated when placed in the scanner’s radio frequency field, which is typically 2 to 8 inches wide. So unlike the recent TV commercials featuring a guy breezing out of a supermarket, paying via SmartCover involves digging your cell phone out and moving it through the scanning field. And I assume a human still needs to tally up the bill. RFID tags in the food, now that would be something.

While we’re at it, a pet peeve: Nokia cranks out more press releases than pretty much any company I follow, but their press section on their Web site never is up to date. They are not alone in this by any means. Perhaps by the time you read this they’ll have gotten around to post the PR.

One more pet peeve: incomprehensible navigation on corporate sites. The Sodexho, Inc. site is OK – at least they had the PR posted. But the Sodexho Alliance site is another triumph of design over utility. I merely wanted to find out how big Sodexho is and how many cafeterias they manage worldwide. Couldn’t do it. Get a clue, Web site designers. Try to organize a site so people who have real questions about the company can find the answers. The Sodexho Alliance site did have a FAQ section, with all of three questions in it, one about the chairman’s succession plans. Yeah, that one was uppermost on my mind; thanks for answering it.

Bottom line: Nokia’s scheme will probably work fine for employee cafeterias and other relatively controlled situations (but probably won’t fly in another Sodexho business: running correctional facilities). It’s unclear if Nokia’s SmartCover solution is vendor-specific or whether it can work with other merchants. (Peeve: a search for SmartCover on Nokia’s site turned up nothing. Great branding.) However, what’s really needed is some kind of wireless wallet solution where a previous relationship with the vendor is not necessary. Being the privacy advocate that I am, I would prefer a solution that does not require the wireless user to give up more information than he or she would if paying by cash.


Briefly Noted

  • Famous Last Words: Boston Globe writer Beth Healy recently wrote a grimly funny column about some of the hyperbole surrounding the dot-coms (dot-com is now in Webster’s dictionary , but I don’t like the hyphenated spelling) in their heyday. Among the pompous quotes:

    ”The fastest growing industry in the world is the least risky thing to invest in.David Wetherell, CMGI, now trading at $2.50

    ”What you have to understand is that we are very, very smart.
    WebVan executive, which stupidly went under recently.

    To show that hubris is still alive and well, though, witness the remarks of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner John Doerr in a recent speech : “I’m here today with something of an apology,” presumably for the whole dot-com boom and resulting bust. Or perhaps just for his famous quote, calling the Internet boom “the largest legal creation of wealth in the history of the planet.” (Doerr predicted the downturn would last through 2002, our favorite year.)
    Boston Globe (it’ll cost you)

  • Auctions Are Hot: Think B2C eCommerce is dead? Nielsen//NetRatings says consumers spent $556 million at online auction sites in May, up 149 percent from the preceding year and up 65 percent from the preceding month. How’s that for growth? Not surprisingly, eBay remains the leader, with its share growing from 57.8 percent last year to 64.3 percent. Both Yahoo and Amazon have struggled to make headway in the auction market, but my personal favorite, uBid , increased its share from 9.1 percent last year to 14.7 percent.
  • Invisible Copyright Infringement: This is a weird one:’s site,, apparently reproduced text from horoscope site in white letters on a white background on every page of the site. Why? So search engines would take notice and increase InternetHoroscopes’ ranking in listings.,’s parent, is suing for a million Euros, despite the fact that the offending text has been removed. White text on a white background is a well-known trick to try to influence search engines. Since most search engines give higher weight to text actually found on pages (vs. text placed in META tags, for example), site designers sometimes place invisible text on their pages. However, since this procedure became common, many search engines discount text that is invisible due to font and background colors. Want to see what Web site designers are doing to increase the ranking of their pages? Try using the View Source command in your browser. Note particularly any text in a META statement.
    New YorkTimes (registration required)

Can’t Get Enough of ME?

In the unlikely event that you want more of my opinions, I’ve started a Weblog. It’s the fashionable thing for pundits to do, and I’m doing it too. A Weblog is a datestamped collection of somewhat random thoughts and ideas assembled on a Web page. If you’d like to subject the world to your thoughts, as I do, you can create your own Weblog. You need to have a Web site that allows you FTP access, and the free software from . This allows you to right click on a Web page and append your pithy thoughts to your Weblog.

I’ve dubbed my Weblog entries “Stratlets”, and they are available at . Let me know what you think. Also check out the TrendSpot for ranking of the latest emerging trends.

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