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Samsung aims for bigger role in mobile payments with new Galaxy S4 phone

The Galaxy S4 is the first smartphone to use technology from Mobeam enabling retailers to accept mobile payments, coupons and loyalty cards without the need to invest in new scanners. Additionally, the phone includes near field communication capabilities, is the first Samsung device to come pre-loaded with the Visa payWave app and includes Samsung’s mobile wallet app, which lets users to store coupons, loyalty cards and tickets in one place.

“Right now, you can scan 2D content like QR codes at only a handful of locations,” said Marcia Donner, chief operating officer of mobeam, San Francisco. “Mobeam’s technology on the Samsung Galaxy S4 opens the door to an entire market that is in place now.

“For consumers, more than 500 million people around the world are expected to receive mobile coupons this year, representing an increase of 30 percent increase over 2012,” she said. “Until now, barcoded coupons you received via email needed to be printed out or manually entered for redemption because tradition point-of-sale scanners cannot read a bar code on a mobile screen and 2D capable scanners are a costly upgrade for the store.”

Legacy POS systems
The Galaxy S4 will work anywhere that uses traditional 1D bar code scanners, such as department stores, grocery stores and convenience stores.

To date, mobile payments have typically been accomplished via 2D bar codes or NFC technology, both of which require retailers to purchase new POS equipment.

The necessity for such an investment on the part of retailers has been one of the factors holding back the adoption of mobile payments as retailers wait to see which solutions will gain the upper hand before deciding where to put their money.

Consumers will have a couple of options for using the technology that will largely depend on the retailer, and the specific coupon or loyalty card being used.

Offers may be baked into a retailer’s app and consumers would be able to select the coupons they want to use in the store. Or, offers may be pushed to users via Samsung Wallet, or other similar apps.

There is also a way to beam bar codes received via email and SMS.

Light source
Mobeam uses a light source on the phone to “beam” the bar code data to the sensor on a POS laser scanner as a direct light source rather than a reflection of the scanner’s laser light.

The light source can be any LED on the phone, such as a message waiting indicator, a charge indicator or the infrared LED used in proximity sensors. That LED will transfer information from the bar code to the retail POS scanner system, enabling payments, coupon redemption and loyalty transactions.

Mobeam is also partnering with Procter & Gamble with the goal of creating a mobile couponing system that is simpler and faster for consumers and retailers.

“With a mobeam-enabled phone, when it’s time to redeem a coupon or use other bar code information, you simply point the phone’s light source to the scanner and press the beaming button,” Ms. Donner said.  “The bar code data is instantly sent to the retail POS system.

“The only real difference is that instead of keeping wads of paper or plastic cards in your wallet or purse, you’ll store them in an app on your phone,” she said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York