NYC Proprietors Beaming Promos to Passers-by

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About 30 proprietors in Manhattan's chic SoHo neighborhood have reportedly agreed to test a new wireless device that lets them beam sales information 24 hours a day to hand-held devices inside and outside their buildings.


To use the service, proprietors plug a device dubbed the Hi Beam into a wall near their front door, a cash register or some other place by which customers are likely to pass.


Hi Beam then enables those within four feet of it to point the infrared port of their wireless-enabled personal digital assistants or data-enabled cell phones at it and receive instant coupons and promotions and business card-type information like name, address, hours of operation and URL.


The devices are slated to be in the establishments sometime this month. Each proprietor has agreed to a two-month free trial of the service, according to executives at TelMeMor-e, the New York wireless technology firm that created the device.


"We've selected a good cross section," said Greg Chotkowski, chief operating officer of TelMeMor-e Inc. "We've got restaurants, some stores, a wine merchant, a shoe store ... [boutique-type places] that really want to touch their customers. It's a way for them to give their customers something other than a bag and a receipt and then just let them go."


The service is slated to cost from $50 to $200 per month depending on the volume of information updates for which the device is used.


Among the businesses that have agreed to test Hi Beam is The Apartment.


Executives at the upscale furniture retailer and designer, however, are not looking to see an immediate return on investment.


"We did it to stay ahead of the curve," said Toby Wong, conceptual director at The Apartment. "We want to provoke interest. As it goes on, of course, we're hoping for a return."


However, heavy promotions are not in The Apartment's immediate plans for Hi Beam.


"Our clientele is a little more upscale, so we don't want to be too gimmicky," said Wong. "I think it will be a great marketing tool. [But] my short-term goal is just to familiarize people with it."


Some of Hi Beam's main advantages are that it sends information in a continual loop 24 hours a day, and that passers-by can get information without entering the building, said Chotkowski.


"I can just point my Palm Pilot or my cell phone at the window, and it beams that information over to me so I can bookmark that experience," said Chotkowksi, who also envisions storefront window items being promoted and sold even when the establishments are closed. Plans are in the works to enable Hi Beam's proprietor subscribers to beam information whenever their customers go online to synchronize the PDAs. "That way, you don't have to be in front of the store to get the information," he said.


Among TelMeMor-e's targets for the device are restaurants, health clubs, museums and train stations.


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