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Apple patents point to assault on coupons, NFC and mobile marketing value chain

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Following hot on the heals of Apple rolling out its iAd mobile advertising offering, patent applications filed in the US by the company suggest that it is now looking to offer a range of mobile commerce services covering payments, NFC and marketing. Together these and the iAds show the company is limbering up to ‘own’ the complete value chain from marketing to purchase in the m-commerce channel.

The Cupertino-based company is also looking at developing NFC into a ticketing and couponing solution – so far dubbed iCoupons or Ticketing+, depending on who you listen to – that will seek to revolutionise the mobile coupon and ticketing businesses and bring them mainstream.

According to reports by Apple has so far put in four mobile payments patent applications. The first two relate to peer-to-peer (P2P) payments and show an iPhone menu that would enable the user to choose from a variety of payments options at the time of purchase.

Here, there is an indication that iTunes could evolve into a mobile currency, with mention of the service as one of the payments options along with bank transfer, credit and debit card options. The second pair of patent applications, meanwhile, cover the use of a ‘portable device’ — such as an iPhone — as a mobile point of purchase or POS terminal, able to capture information about an item for sale, determine its purchase price and process payments.

Now, two new patent applications entitled ‘Smart Menu Options’ and ‘Real-Time Bargain Hunting’ have also been published which together describe a comprehensive mobile commerce, promotions and payments service — including a clear business model that Apple could use to generate significant new revenues.

The abstract for the Smart Menu Options application explains that it primarily covers methods for choosing which payment option to use at the point of purchase.

As well as going into detail about how a user would choose which payment option to use at the point of purchase, and also describing the use of the iPhone to deliver transport ticketing applications, the patent application also describes in detail how Apple expects to generate revenues from the service.

The concept of a data manager, a manufacturer database, retailer database and consumer database are introduced alongside the concept of fees being charged to retailers and product suppliers by “the manufacturer of the device” for the delivery of coupons and other promotional services to consumers.

The abstract for the Real-Time Bargain Hunting patent application, meanwhile, provides details of a comprehensive mobile shopping system, again including the ‘iCoupons’ concept.

The company is also looking at how to use NFC technology to turn the iPhone into a universal remote controller for the home, with devices such as mac computers, Mac TV boxes, AirPort wifi routers and games consoles all being connected via the radio frequency, with the iPhone as the controller.

The move by Apple will see it perhaps doing for the mobile payments, mobile retailing and wireless entertainments business what it has done in the mobile phone, music, gaming and m-web access business – own the channel and take a healthy cut of the revenue that flows through the channel.

The launch last week of iAds sent shivers down the spines of the mobile ad world. This week it is the turn of the mobile advertising community.

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