Interview: Airtag CEO Jérémie Leroyer (On The Company's NFC And Mobile Commerce Solutions)

By Vamien McKalin | Dec 13, 2012 09:53 AM EST

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Mobile Commerce in recent years has become a growing trend, more so since smartphones have gotten smarter and more accessible around the world. Back in November 2011, 38 percent of smartphone owners have used their phone to make a purchase at least once, this according to comScore.

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New European mobile commerce startup company, Airtag, steps in with innovative Mobile Shopping Solutions including in-store systems and secure payment applications that deliver an interactive and engaging user experience. Airtag offers a full range cutting edge tools in one package that will help make your stores the preferred destination for more customers.

Mobile & Apps spoke with Airtag's Co-Founder and CEO Jérémie Leroyer, about the company's NFC and Mobile Commerce solutions:

What are your thoughts on Mobile Shopping and how does Airtag plan to innovate in this space with NFC? 

I think Mobile Shopping is a new opportunity for retailers to create value at all stages of the customer journey, in-store and everywhere else through interactive and engaging experiences. NFC is not a strategy alone; it is a technology, which is an enabler. This means that value for the end user must be added to NFC.

AIRTAG's role in the NFC eco-system is enabling Service providers to bring value added services to NFC that in turn will increase their profitability.  The value added services that we provide range from; creating new and improved customer journey's; reducing lines, waiting time, card processing, adding loyalty to NFC payments, reducing fees, couponing, digital receipts, linking transportation passes etc. Value Added Services will make NFC technology valuable for the end user.

At AIRTAG, we are currently innovating by providing many Banks, MNO's, retailers and other service providers with; AIRPASS our white label NFC mobile wallet and payment apps. We are also innovating in the inverse, by including NFC capabilities to our existing Mobile Commerce solutions; AIRSHOP Order; Advanced Ordering & Payment solutions and AIRSHOP Deals; Loyalty & Couponing solution.

Recently, Airtag released an NFC Mobile payments developer kit. Could you tell us more about that. 

The AIRTAG Kit, is a set of tools designed to be used in conjunction with MasterCard's MM PP UI SDK.  It is the hardware and support necessary to successfully complete the development of PayPass applications. This solution is aimed at simplifying the development process and lowering the entry barrier, so that NFC PayPass Apps can sooner be available to end users. The AIRTAG kit is a cost effective tool and most importantly will simplify the MasterCard certification process. 

Currently, the NFC ecosystem is confusing and not yet simplified. How could this be made possible? 

As I mentioned earlier, NFC is a technology and therefore it is only an enabler. For NFC to succeed many players are realizing there will need to be an opened infrastructure which means a lot of different players will be involved. When there are many players things are not always easy to simplify which is quite normal with complex technologies. I see AIRTAG's role in simplifying the NFC ecosystem as providing tools/solutions that simplify the development and integration processes for developers and service providers. This is exactly how we positioned the AIRTAG Kit: as a framework and tool to simplify the NFC eco-system. Others are utilizing a more closed infrastructure which makes things very easy for the end user to understand, but this strategy does not meet the needs of most players in the eco-system. What we can all do to simplify things is clarify the user benefits; through value added services.

You know, it's quite interesting for a Start Up that Airtag managed to get McDonalds, Reebok, and MasterCard under its belt. How did the company manage to make that happen? 

I think large brands have chosen to work with AIRTAG for a couple of reasons. AIRTAG was one of the founding companies to focus on Mobile Shopping & NFC back in 2006, so we have been working on R&D for six years to date which is attractive to big players because they know that we know what we are doing.

AIRTAG also offers plug & play solutions meaning we were able to meet the needs of retailers who have very specific information systems, in-store designs and existing solutions. That is how we won the McDonald's partnership in 2009, by developing a plug & play solution, with no disruption to the in-store environment or POS.

I think another important reason that some big names have been interested in working with AIRTAG is because we have extensive experience across the field Mobile Shopping. This is attractive because those who choose to partner with AIRTAG know that they can grow their Mobile Shopping strategy in the future.

Apart from McDonalds, Reebok and MasterCard, are there any other major partnerships in the pipeline for Airtag?

We have some exciting partnerships to announce in the next year. We also have some upcoming innovations to do with the Windows Phone 8 that we will be announcing in the next year.

On the matter of Windows Phone 8, what are your general thoughts on Microsoft's new mobile operating system? 

I think Microsoft is offering a disruptive user experience that is not seen anywhere else in the market right now. The operating system is easy to use and the key benefits can be easily understood. I think that Microsoft's opened strategy will encourage retailers and brands to embrace NFC standards because the WP8's open infrastructure enables retailers & brands to create their own value on the OS. We are really excited for some upcoming projects that leverage Microsoft's disruptive technology.

We understand that Airtag plans to release a payment wallet app in 2013 for Windows Phone 8. How would this app differ from Microsoft's own built-in Wallet? 

The big difference is that Banks and financial institutions will be able to provide their own value added services; to improve the user experience and to enhance their customer relationships.

Airtag's NFC Mobile Payment Developer Kit doesn't yet support Windows Phone 8. When can developers who are interested in using this product expect to get a shot at it?

Unfortunately this is confidential information right now!

There are those who are skeptical about NFC. How does Airtag plan on converting the naysayers?

NFC is not going to be a quick fix it is a long term technology. We can certainly see, by the strides taken by every major player, NFC is the way in which we are moving. It will take some time before the infrastructure is set-up, maybe even five years before NFC accounts for the majority of payments. In the meantime, we can convince the naysers by offering them Value Added Services that clearly show the benefits of the technology. NFC is also more secure which will lower transaction fees for merchants end users because there will be less fraud. I think that should be attractive as well. 

Finally, why should businesses and developers choose to go with AirTag when there are others out there doing similar work?

I think people should choose AIRTAG because we are a company that specializes in Mobile Shopping Solutions as well as Shopper Marketing, with a focus on the retail market. We have key customers including: MasterCard, McDonald's, McCafé, Starbucks, Carrefour City etc. We have invested, for a long time, in Mobile Shopping & NFC. We believe that we have built one of the strongest user experiences on the Secure element. AIRTAG is a company of 50+ mobile experts with experience across the field of Mobile Shopping that enables retailers, MNO's and banks leverage the marketing opportunity within this field.

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We would like to thank Airtag CEO Jérémie Leroyer for taking the time out to speak with Mobile & Apps, and Andrea Holland for making this a reality.

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