Bluefish Lets Consumers 'Beam' Purchases

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A new technology is being touted as a way for companies to boost mobile commerce transactions without consumers having to pay wireless modem or access fees.


Bluefish Wireless, San Francisco, launched its free network for personal digital assistant users June 4.


The technology allows PDA users to make secure wireless transactions and to receive news and local information by aiming their PDAs at Bluefish access points, which are small boxes attached to advertising displays.


Holding a PDA's phone button for two seconds initiates the unit's beaming capability, allowing users to download and upload information at the access points.


There are access points at Chicago's O'Hare International and the Hartsfield Atlanta International airports. Deals are in the works for additional access points.


To shop, users select brands from a list of channels, such as Entertainment. Retailers can create virtual stores within the channels that users download to their PDAs. Consumers review information on products at their leisure and select the ones they want to buy.


They complete the purchases the next time they beam on a Bluefish access point or use the HotSync cradle -- which comes with every PDA -- to purchase via the Internet.


Additional content that users beam on is downloaded, and any pending transactions are uploaded.


Early retail partners include The Sharper Image, Tower Records, Proflowers.com, Ernst & Young and E*Trade.


"Bluefish enables our customers to carry a Tower Records virtual store on their Palm hand-helds, giving them the ability to buy CDs and movies on the go, when and where they choose," said Russ Eisenman, director of marketing and business development at Tower Records.


Some of the firms are using ad messages to build brand awareness and boost transactions. A Palm ad invites PDA users to "Order Accessories for your Palm" via a text message listing accessories and their prices.


"If I'm interested in that Palm ad, I can pull down the Palm 'virtual store' and, when I've got some time, make the purchase whenever I want," said James Fisher, CEO of Bluefish.


Then users select from a drop-down list of their credit cards to complete the Palm accessory transaction.


"It's very secure," Fisher said. "You don't send credit card information through the system. We already have that information in our back-end system."


E*Trade is using Bluefish for customer acquisition, inviting PDA users to sign up for an account via their device.


Ernst & Young's goal, meanwhile, is to build its brand with an interactive foreign-exchange rate game targeted at chief financial officers.


"This technology takes out-of-home advertising to a new level and provides us with an innovative distribution channel to get our intellectual capital in the hands of our clients," said Jim Peros, national director of external communications at Ernst & Young.


Bluefish access points are installed on select airport advertising displays operated by Transportation Media, which offers advertisers the option of adding Bluefish to their ad signs to create a virtual store.


Bluefish is adding access points at other U.S. airports and in major retail chains this summer. High-traffic public facilities, such as convention centers, universities and museums, are also ideal spots to install access points, according to the company.


Bluefish executives are also in talks with corporations about business applications for the technology, such as allowing employees to download company news, work schedules and sales manuals via Bluefish access points, and to facilitate e-procurement and corporate travel arrangements.


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