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New Technologies Add Value to Check-in Services

17 March 2011

Check-in services are growing in popularity, with offerings from Facebook Places, Gowalla and Foursquare that allow users to enter their location from a mobile device in order to inform others where they are and to learn more about their surroundings.

But while enhancements in features can drive penetration among users, adding value to these services is equally important for the commercial partners, according to new IHS iSuppli research.

To be sure, a central issue for any option is the increased ease-of-use of the services and apps. Regardless of how the apps are integrated, new technologies do have the potential to increase the popularity of check-in services, generating more revenue and in the process changing the way users and businesses think about checking in.

Making Checking in Easy
Adding value to a traditional check-in application can be accomplished on different levels. The first goal must be to make the actual act of checking in as easy and seamless as possible. Eliminating barriers to checking in will allow the function to gain popularity and provide an expanded target audience for developers and commercial partners alike.

HTC and Facebook took a giant step toward making checking in as easy as, if not easier than, most other functions on a cell phone with the newly released HTC ChaCha and Salsa handsets. Both devices feature a physical Facebook button on the front of the device. In the case of the HTC Salsa, the Facebook button is the only physical button on the phone, as the device lacks any keyboard and relies purely on the touch screen for text input.

Most interestingly, however, is the fact that pressing and holding the button automatically checks in the user with Facebook Places. This means that users have one-click-access to a check-in application. Traditionally, the applications must be opened and the user then checks in, so the integration shown by HTC is unprecedented.

Combining Checking in with Mobile Payments
While integrating hardware features like physical buttons is one option to increase ease of use, another is to combine checking in with other mobile functions. One such potential option is near field communications (NFC).

While Google is trying to jumpstart adoption of the technology by simply eliminating the chicken-and-egg conundrum through making the technology available on its platform, handset makers like Research In Motion, Nokia and Samsung—not to mention value-chain players like NXP—also are evaluating the feasibility of deploying NFC. Traditionally, the focus when discussing NFC has been on transactions for tickets or groceries, for example. However, the potential for the technology goes beyond those applications, and NFC can be a driving factor to bring more value to check-in services.

For its part, NXP sees potential in the adaptation of NFC for location-based services (LBS), specifically in terms of checking in at a location. Instead of opening the respective application and manually checking in, users could find an NFC station at a point of sale (PoS), for example. In the most optimal case for the business and application developer, NFC technology would enable the user to make a mobile payment, while at the same time checking in with an LBS service.

Different Levels of Check-in
Integration with mobile payments would bring with it a change in the way developers and business partners think about check-ins. Using NFC technology not only provides more accurate location information than check-ins based on GPS and other location technology do, but application developers and businesses alike also would be able to gather more detailed data about their users, with the benefit of better-tailored advertisements, coupons and reward campaigns. Furthermore, application providers would be able to show businesses detailed metrics on a campaign’s performance.

Changing the Way Check-in is Regarded
The popularity of social networks such as Facebook has moved handset makers to integrate check-in services to higher levels than before, and NFC technology has the potential to be a driving force for check-in applications. Here, using the handset to make a mobile payment also checks in a user automatically at that location—again eliminating the need for a dedicated application to be opened.

This type of integration in general handset usage has the potential to significantly change the way businesses think about check-in applications as advertising and engagement platforms.

For NFC check-ins to succeed, benefits for the user in terms of rewards, coupons and more relevant advertising have to be significantly higher than for other types of check-ins. Additionally, it must be communicated clearly what type of information is collected and passed on among the developer, business and payment provider. If this is not transparent, users could opt to remain checked out.

Learn More > IHS iSuppli’s Location-Aware Portable Devices Portal

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