Wireless alcohol purchasing puts users in high spirits

Imagine buying your best mate a birthday drink at a classy Sydney establishment even if you can't be at the pub with him. You may be somewhere across the world, but hey, at least you're there in ... spirits. It's all a matter of sending an SMS, thanks to some handy technology by mobile ticketing provider bCODE.

The bCODE-Drinks consumer portal was launched last week to allow the wireless purchase of drinks via a "pervasive Web" service that connects the current PC-based Web with mobile devices and wireless systems in the physical world.

Drinks purchased through the online portal are sent as text-based SMS vouchers that are optically decoded by specially designed readers at the bar. Users can also create and customize multimedia messages, which appear on video screens at the point of redemption, to accompany drink purchases.

"We have a very sophisticated back-end that provides the bar or retailer with an instant marketing capability, and campaign redemption metrics in real time," said bCODE marketing director, Paul Christy.

The most significant feature of the technology, Christy said, is its text-based code. Unlike 2D barcode and RFID-based mobile ticketing technologies that require a phone-specific chipset or graphics, bCODE expects its code to be supported by 99 percent of all mobile devices in the market, including PDAs, BlackBerry, Treo and portable music players like the Apple iPod,

"In essence, it's an SMS, so it's cheap and easy to use and can be used on any handset on any mobile network supporting SMS anywhere in the world," he said. "Reading a bCODE from a screen is also far more reliable in terms of scan rate than scanning some of the 'old school' barcode SMS tickets that are sent as images via EMS or MMS."

bCODE readers have been deployed in 15 Sydney metropolitan pubs and clubs. Wireless connectivity is powered by either EVDO, WiMax or 3G, depending on location.

The technology, dubbed m-commerce, operates in a similar way to e-commerce pay-per-click advertising. The company profits through redemption fees for driving traffic into specific bar and club venues, Christy said.

The company expects that wireless alcohol purchasing is only the beginning of mobile commerce.

"We are looking to prove the technology here in Australia, in the retail and entertainment markets mainly, and have advanced discussions with leading players in these sectors," Christy said.

The company hopes to demonstrate to retailers the possibility of converting a Web visitor into a store customer, using mobile technology, and to inspire organizations and applications developers to bring newer and better mobile commerce experiences to consumers.

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