You Will Pay the Hotel with your Mobile

iBeacon, the digital beacon that could transform into not delaying the most popular payment system because of its simplicity, range or virtual interconnection between the buyer and the seller. It’s my daily routine in New York. If I don’t get to take the metro, I hail a taxi from the thousands that go up and down on the streets. A soon as I get in, I take out my iPhone and open the apps Uber or Way2Ride, which most cab drivers are affiliated with. As soon as the app starts, two buttons appear: I Need a Taxi, which will help me locate one in case I’m living outside radio range, and I’m in the Taxi, which will mark me as being in a cab already. And that’s it. Once I’ve reached my destination, as the ad suggest on TV’s cab, I open the door, and give the cabbie that took me there a warming bye-bye.

In New York it’s becoming a habit to not pay for taxis, or even some trifle sold in Macy’s stores. Soon it will not be required to pay for travel by subway, or lunch at the restaurant on the corner. By this I mean, it is not paid in cash, or by credit card. The various applications connect to the taxi system, the cashier in the department stores and restaurant, consequently simplifying the payment process, which is obviously automatic and billed to the bank account or credit card. Couldn’t be easier.

For several years it has been speculated with the emergence of NFC (Near Field Communications) on mobiles, that it will expand to all models and operating systems. Of course, my iPhone does not have it. And maybe at this rate, it will never have it. Apple announced in mid-2013 their newest technology, iBeacon, integrated already on its iOS Mavericks 7 and OSX operating systems. As its name indicates, iBeacon is a beacon that transmits over the new low-energy-consumption Bluetooth (BLE) the position of the nearest mobile to the system’s center detector. Someone might tell me this is no different than a GPS and for that function a proclamation like this one wasn’t necessary.

But let’s study it deeper and think about its utility in the tourism industry. Let’s imagine a store, a restaurant or a hotel detects the presence of my mobile nearby and, as I am walking, it passes me the shopping list, the things missing from my fridge, the update on one or another device or app, the deal that would fit me like a ring on finger today, or the news that U2 will be giving a concert within an hour, two blocks from here. Or that my favorite, Antonio Muñoz Molina, is book-signing in the building in front. Of course, everything along with some discount coupons, loyalty proposals and some other freebies.

One difference with the NFC technology is, the iBeacon doesn’t need to be attached to the receptor. The real tracking on the mobile is resolved through triangulation as follows by these patterns: iBeacon #3491035 is captured within 5 meters distance, iBeacon #3452435 within 20 meters and iBeacon #9045902 within 50 meters. Along with the Apple iOS 7, any Android with Bluetooth and firmware above 4.3 can receive the same signal.

A lot of us have the impression that the world’s financial system will not survive the last crisis. Or at least, the system how we know it. The banks are low, that’s why it wouldn’t be strange if they end up being replaced by other type of entity – better growing, globalized, flexible and community-oriented. I’m not only thinking about the potential in crowdfunding, but also on Google’s, Amazon’s and Apple’s virtuality. What will happen if one day Larry Page killed the Santander Bank’s owner Emilio Botin? The national coins will surely not survive this century, even though bitcoins haven’t made it as a digital, global and transborder alternative for dollars. Humanity will have to ask itself, what are coins worth when most people are choosing the ways of electronic accounting entry?

Before all that, plastic will become obsolete. And this is where I wanted to go with the eulogy of iBeacon, the digital beacon that could transform into not delaying the most popular payment system because of its simplicity, range or virtual interconnection between the buyer and the seller. It’s true that Google Wallet has been working for a couple of years in the US, but it hasn’t finish starting and there are very few stores that have implemented this sensitive terminal. The times I’ve tried it – at Macy’s, of course – it didn’t meet my needs, because the payment is done with a backup credit card, so, where does the benefit come into effect?

The interesting part of iBeacon is its ease of use, an intuitive turn characterized in Apple products. “The mobile payment has always been behind the idea of ID Touch,” the financial director of Apple, Peter Oppenheimer, declared a few days back. And the one responsible for iTunes and the App Store, Eddy Cue, comes highlighted in the Wall Street Journal that the company will be launching very soon a mobile payment option through iOS devices. Easy to believe… But part of the job’s already done. Differentiating from Google, which doesn’t have many affiliates on their Wallet, Apple possesses more than 575 million accounts in iTunes linked to credit cards, that saves us the hassle of creating a new account to start using the system. Apple also possesses hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads in the whole world, prepared to activate their mobile payment app with a single tap.

iBeacon is being used today in trial mode in all Apple stores in the United States to send information about their products to an iOS device when the visitor passes in front of certain products. The eve of the Superbowl in New York was fertile grounds, with the visit of billions of tourists to the city to test the new system. And, you know, it worked. Easily. Without embedding a special chip expected by NFC.

Forrester Research predicts that US consumers will spend 90 billion dollars through mobile payments in 2017. Assume that the vast majority of these payments will be made using the ID Touche sensor incorporated by stock to every iPhone 5S. To a good listener, a few words are enough.

Because I guess in this hotel from the year 2020 that we will project an ecosystem of mobile payment with touch sensors, active from beginning to end of the instance, even before the booking and after completing the experience, when the memory enters your positive REM phase. Join me in this journey through the emotions we anticipate in the various # Hotel2020 seminars as we celebrate throughout the Spanish geography and some cities in Latin America. Would you like a glass of wine? The amount is automatically saved to your account, which you can monitor in the iBeacon app. A spa therapy outside the schedule? Take it; you will immediately find its reflection in your iBeacon account. A pay-per-view movie in your room? While streaming, your iTunes account downloads another film on the house.

With these kinds of micropayments, invoices as we know them may disappear. Hotels may also delete the price chart. The low-cost pricing model may even be imposed, whereby each consumer will be charged separately with consent of your fingerprint on the iPhone. Yes, WiFi apart, cosmetics aside, TV, air conditioning, hours of consumption for light and hot water.

Because, in the future, the only way to issue a single invoice with “all included” will be packaging an experience. As in the cinema, the theater or the opera, you do not pay for sitting, in the hotel of the future you won’t pay for a bed. The ticket entitles you to see a show. Hotel curtain opens … What do you feel? An unprecedented excitement.

Fernando Gallardo |

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