Samsung looking to Israeli tech to compete with Apple’s iBeacon

A couple of months ago I tweeted about an Israeli startup named ShopCloud that was showing off some fairly amazing retail technology:

The interesting thing to me was that it enabled much of the functionality of Apple’s iBeacon technology, without the need for physical iBeacons to be in place.

It seems this fact wasn’t lost on Samsung, which is now rumored to be trying to buy ShopCloud for about $80-90M. This was originally reported by the Israeli tech blog Geektime, and followed up by Israeli business news site Globes.

ShopCloud INSIDE
Navigating using ShopCloud’s INSIDE

This is particularly relevant if you look back at my post Who do you trust with your identity? which among other things looks at how Apple is using iBeacons to position itself as the preferred partner for mobile payments in the future. It’s a smart strategy, giving the retailers powerful technology to engage their customers, while at the same time giving Apple access to those same customers. Google and various other companies have tried to use NFC to similar effect, but these efforts have largely failed.

ShopCloud could allow Samsung, or whomever ends up purchasing it, an end-run around iBeacons and NFC. ShopCloud’s INSIDE technology allows malls and store to map everything to a 1-meter accuracy, and let the user navigate through the store or mall easily. Just like iBeacons, the app could make offers based on location. If the technology works as advertised, then the costs for deployment are significantly less expensive than deploying iBeacons, with many of the same benefits. This gives the owner of the technology a leg up on Apple’s iBeacon, and similar access to retailers.

I think Samsung would be very smart to buy ShopCloud, as the competition for who will control mobile payments is definitely heating up and in the next few years we’re going to see a handful of companies controlling those payments. Samsung definitely wants to be one of those companies. If a bidding war erupts over the company, I think you’ll see some of the other companies interesting in mobile payments also getting involved.

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