SK Planet paves new way in 'smart wallet' sector
By Cho Mu-hyun
“Paying by smartphones slims down wallets”
Even with the recent decrease in household incomes, for SK Planet, their name could be attributed with literal rather than figurative meaning. The company is at the forefront of an increasingly popular trend among consumers who like to use their smartphones as payment devices, discarding stacks of plastic credit cards along the way and slimming down their wallets.
Using smartphones to conduct financial transactions is just one of the many new possibilities of NFC (Near Field Communication) technology which is spreading rapidly in Korea and worldwide. NFC refers to a set of standards for smartphones and associated devices to establish radio communication within 10 centimeters of each other. The technology is already being used for monetary transactions, data exchanges, security and others.
SK Planet, led by chief executive Seo Jin-woo, is the leading Korean platform service and solution firms using NFC in new, innovative ways in the enlarging mobile commerce service market.
Smartphones as wallets
The company launched its “Smart Wallet” service on June 2010, and has already acquired 5 million subscribers to the service. It allows subscribers to use their smartphones as means of identification, storing coupons membership and credit cards, and is currently functional in theaters, coffee shops and 80,000 retailers of 160 brands.
SK Planet was the first domestic mobile service provider to start an one-stop NFC service dubbed “NFC&Joy” for baseball games, which was initiated in SK Wyvern’s ballpark Incheon Munhak Stadium in September last year.
NFC gadgets and QR codes were placed in 760 seats, parking lots and 70 venues in the ballpark enabling users to order food, find parking spaces, download caricatures of players, check game schedules and acquire player information. Current monthly food orders via the service are six times larger than when it started last year, the company said.
The service became available last month in Family Mart, the nation’s largest convenient store franchise, proving SK Planet’s expanding presence in NFC in many people’s daily lives.
The firm maintained momentum to introduce its heavily demanded NFC solution to different industries: Samsung Electronics and department chain Shisegae acquired the solution from SK Planet in May and June respectively.
Subscribers can just place their smartphones on gadgets specifically built to accommodate the service by partner companies in various venues.
Global Leader in NFC
SK Planet is not limiting itself to the domestic market in its efforts to spread NFC, but is a global leader of the technology too. The firm was recently chosen as the project leader for the “Mobile NFC Global Working Team,” an organization commissioned by the GSMA (The Global System for Mobile Communications Association) to establish international standards for NFC. In this role, SK Planet will be in a position to approve work streams proposed by member companies.
Attending the team’s first meeting, that coincided with Mobile Asia Expo 2012 in Shanghai last week, it held a three day discussion on providing reviews, input, guidance and a global perspective on key NFC projects.
The Korean firm’s “NFC&Joy” service, shown during the meeting in collaboration with Japanese firm KDDI, was judged by team members as a successful example of applying NFC. SK Planet is planning to commercialize it in Japan
The new team is the successor of “Pay Buy Mobile” team, which worked to set standards on monetary transaction via NFC technology. Members include firms from Europe, the United States, China and Japan.
As a proven global leader in NFC, SK Planet is considering the good of the whole market and helping other companies to create a healthy ecosystem in the emerging market. The company is working in collaboration with UbiVelox, AT Solution, MCom, Harex Infotech and its cousin firm SK C&C to assist businesses that are behind in developing NFC solutions.
SK Planet is planning to open a NFC platform in September, tentatively called “Smart Touch,” which will allow other companies, organization and even individuals to create NFC services directly.
“We plan to create a sustainable ecosystem and provide consumers with never-before-seen services, and expand our perspective globally,” said Kim Soo-Il, senior vice president of the firm’s commerce business.