San Francisco startup Mobeam has been awfully quiet since it revealed a whopper of a smartphone partnership earlier this year, and today the reason for that relative silence has become clear. Mobeam announced today that it’s firming up its deal with Samsung by launching its new Beep’nGo app for the Galaxy S4 and Note 3, along with a Beaming Services app it hopes will help drive Mobeam use by developers.
“But wait,” I hear you saying. “What on earth are those?” To really get a feel for what Mobeam is up to, we need to flash back to Samsung’s Galaxy S4 launch event — Mobeam secured a deal to bake its infrared technology into the smartphone that would allow users to effectively use their S4s as rewritable barcodes at point of sales systems in stores. Samsung’s newly-announced Galaxy Note 3 also has that feature built in, which means those two devices are the only ones that Beep’nGo will work with for the time being.
In a nutshell, Beep’nGo is a wallet app that lets users load up their loyalty cards, gift cards, or gym passes (anything with a barcode, really) onto their Samsung device — those barcodes can later be reproduced in the form of infrared flashes wherever needed.
That’s all well and good, but Mobeam’s Beaming Services angle is the really interesting bit — with it, Mobeam is trying to open access its infrared beaming tech to developers and would-be commerce partners. The big problem that would normally arise here is that developers don’t have the sort of low-level access needed to create apps that can use Mobeam’s infrared flashing API. Even worse, if they wanted to gain that sort of access, those developers would have to petition Samsung, a process that can take between weeks and months.
Instead, Mobeam built a Beaming Services app that removes much of that legwork. Developers from banks and other commerce-centric organizations are the real target here — they’ll be able to tap into the Beaming Services app installed on those devices to gain access to those low-level APIs and built out new self-branded apps for their own loyalty and credit cards.
It’s not hard to see how this is a win-win for Samsung and Mobeam — the former gets yet another feature to help push it ahead of the smartphone pack (not to mention a potential competitive edge for its Samsung Wallet), while the latter gets even more buy-in from the world’s biggest smartphone maker. I think Mobeam may really be onto something here, but it can’t let its fortunes rise and fall on the back of a single OEM, no matter how big it is. That’s why Mobeam has spent the past few months trying bring to get other device manufacturers to sign on — CEO Lee wouldn’t name names, but he confirmed that at least one OEM had expressed interest and is aiming to push out its first Mobeam-enabled device early next year.