It's not every day a company gives you $20 worth of free cash to spend as you choose and let you run wild. And it's not every day you pay for your lunch with a wave of your cell phone. This is exactly what Bling Nation is doing to promote its new mobile payment product, which ties into your PayPal account.
We slapped a BlingTag--a yellow and white adhesive square--onto the back of several mobile phones and took the nascent payment solution for a field test at three freshly installed partner retailers in Bling Nation's incubation headquarters of Palo Alto, CA.
The BlingTag, as the sticker is called, uses NFC, or near field communication, a technology that relies on an RFID chip nestled within the adhesive to authenticate transactions made between your cell phone and the BlingNation payment console. NFC is a short-wave radio communications technology that's not unlike Bluetooth in concept. However, it has a much tighter range--up to 10 centimeters (about 4 inches) for NFC versus up to 30 meters (not quite 100 feet) for Bluetooth.
To make a payment, the cashier types in your total and your phone number. You tap (or hover) the BlingTag sticker over the sensor and almost immediately receive a text message with an authorizing pin that the cashier then types into the console. The machine spits out a receipt and you receive a second text message verifying your purchase. The dollar amount, meanwhile, is deducted from your paired PayPal account. If the merchant has signed onto Bling Nation's loyalty program, they could opt to credit you points that you could rack up, in lieu of using a punch card, to eventually purchase more of their product.
As with debit card payments made through a supermarket's card-reading terminal, there's no ID involved, just a pin-based authentication. In Bling Nation's case, the pin code isn't a secret, and it's constantly changing.
The entire process took no longer than paying by credit card, although we did experience a false start that required us to abandon our first BlingTag and begin again because Bling Nation is currently incompatible with Google Voice numbers.
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