PayPal Beacon: PayPal goes all in with Bluetooth Low Energy
Today, Sept 9 2013, just a day before Apple is poised to release iOS 7, PayPal introduced Beacon: A Bluetooth Low Energy device powering hands-free payments and dramatically improved in-store digital experiences.
A Huge Bet
Though often derided by the tech press, PayPal has been working on physical payment experiences for a long time. Starting with POS integration, where a consumer entered their PayPal credentials, the system was a bit too slow and clunky to gain mass adoption. Next releasing PayPal Here, PayPal swiveled to towards the micro-merchant market, competing directly with Square. While both Here and Square are making strides in the micro-merchant market, driving those products upmarket has been met with many challenges.
With PayPal Beacon, PayPal has built a truly amazing experience. It is the first large scale digital payment experience that can be deployed cost-effectively into Fortune 500 retailers.
And it’s all possible because of Bluetooth Low Energy. The BLE beacon, with ranges of 50-100 meters in store, means even the largest retailers will only need to install a few beacons per store. Compared with NFC, which needs installations at each POS, It’s both more cost effective and provides more inshore flexibility. Additionally, the larger range of BLE ensures other in-store experiences can be built on top of Beacon, both by PayPal and 3rd party developers on the Beacon API’s.
POS Integration built in
Unlike many start-ups, PayPal smartly decided years ago to integrate with the existing leaders in the POS market. Partnerships with VeriFone Systems, NCR, Equinox, Micros, and Ingenico have quietly been put in place the last few years.
Now, Paypal has the necessary coverage to enable merchants of all shapes and sizes to quickly integrate PayPal Beacon with their existing systems. Compared with migrating to entirely new POS systems, PayPal has focused on practical ease-of-installation and still released an incredibly innovate product.
With help from legendary designer Yves Behar, the device is compact and beautiful. But, it’s also as functional as good-looking. By simply plugging Beacon into a wall outlet or computer, Beacon connects and syncs with the internet, and the BLE drains less smartphone battery than similar solutions using GPS geo-fences. Battery changes not required.
It’s very clear that PayPal is pushing to be the comprehensive in-store digital experience. They made great strides in a very short period of time. The focus on speed and innovation by David Marcus, PayPal’s CEO, is clearly paying dividends. With Beacon, PayPal has offered users and merchants an empirically driven, simple digital payment experience, plus a robust platform to enable developers building in-store experiences. This is another huge vote for Bluetooth Low Energy, the first near range protocol that’s production ready and connects with a wide enough range of smartphones.