Irish town to be an experiment in Near Field Communication

13 Nov 2009

The fastest town in Ireland – Tuam! – is to be the first entire town in Europe to see the deployment of Near Field Communication, a technology that is set to transform the world of retail and mobile commerce.

Next week will see the citizens of the Galway town become leaders in next-generation consumer loyalty technology as the vast majority of Tuam retailers join together to implement Zapa Technology’s electronic loyalty card scheme.

Customers in Tuam will simply tap their phone at a terminal beside the cash register to avail of discounts, special offers and other loyalty schemes, ensuring that everyone in the town receives all the loyalty bonuses and rewards to which they are entitled from the town’s retailers.

How it works

The system operates using Near Field Communications over ordinary mobile phones. Ireland is the one of the first countries in Europe to use Near Field Communications technology, and the deployment of the technology in Tuam is one of the largest of its kind in Europe.

“It’s great to see an entire town taking up our Zapa Tag technology,” said John Nagle, CEO, Zapa Technology.

“This represents a very exciting move for our ZapaTag and for the future of loyalty and bonus schemes in this country. We believe the deployment of ZapaTags throughout the town of Tuam represents the largest commercial deployment of Near Field Communications in Europe.

“ZapaTags have already been deployed in Insomnia Coffee shops nationwide and we are in discussion with a number of other retailers, but this is the first time an entire town has been blanketed with Zapa technology and we’re very excited about it.  We believe that as a loyalty scheme, the ZapaTag system is second to none for both the customer and the retailer.”

Zapa works by fixing a small tag (the Zapa Tag) to the customer’s mobile phone handset. The customer simply taps the ZAPA reader beside the cash register to receive their bonuses and rewards. The scheme is a “win-win” for both customers and retailers.

Reaping rewards

The Zapa Tag will be a “one size fits all” system for Tuam, replacing the numerous loyalty paper and plastic cards that customers can be bombarded with. Often customers don’t avail of their rewards in full, but this scheme will ensure that they never miss out again.

The Love Your Town initiative emerged earlier this year when Tuam Chamber of Commerce and Energise Tuam came together to introduce a paper-based town loyalty scheme. The use of the Zapa Tag has now automated this scheme.

The retailers of the town believe the scheme will encourage people to spend locally, especially in the run up to Christmas, as loyalty points will be awarded to shoppers based on their cumulative spend across all the retailers in the town.

Zapa Technology was formed by leading Irish entrepreneur John Nagle, who, as former CEO of card-payment services company Alphyra, has in-depth knowledge of the payments, mobile and electronic retail transaction businesses.

Greater potential

Ultimately, the technology has the potential for many more applications from the ability to redeem loyalty rewards from advertising posters to payment facilities. 

The technology works like this: the customer waves or taps their mobile phone handset with the tag attached at the ZAPA reader beside the cash register to gain or redeem loyalty points. These points can be used to redeem loyalty bonuses set by the retailer in all the participating stores.

“The Zapa Tag system is very simple to use and we are confident that the people of Tuam will quickly see the benefits of being assured of getting all their loyalty bonuses all of the time,” said Sarah Roarty, chairperson of Love Your Town.

“With so many retailers in Tuam offering the Zapa Tag, we believe this scheme will be a huge success for both retailer and customer alike,” Roarty said.

The new scheme will be launched on Saturday, 14 November, with a festival in the town. Details of participating retailers will also be published on the website

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years