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At Democratic Convention, First Data Corp. Showed Off Its GO-Tag

The company provided RFID-enabled commemorative badges to members of the media and delegates, who used them to pay for food and beverages.
By Claire Swedberg
First Data sponsored a media lounge offering Wi-Fi access and coffee, which was used not only by the media but also by many of the delegates. At the lounge, Sayor helped give away one-and-a-half-inch-square, printed with "Democratic Convention 2008" on the front. The backs of the buttons sported stickers with embedded NFC chips. When journalists or delegates went to purchase food or beverages at Aramark concession stands, or at other merchants in the convention center, they removed the button and held it near a First Data NFC reader, which scanned the ID number encoded to the chip.

That number was transmitted to First Data's back-end system, where the service provider's software enabled the button's $10 balance to be linked to that GO-Tag's ID number. The payment was then approved and deducted from the amount of money in that sticker's account. If a balance still remained after the purchase, the same button could be reused another time. If, on the other hand, the balance for that GO-Tag sticker was not high enough to pay for the items being purchased, the customer would simply pay the remainder in cash.


Ginger Sayor
Merchant employees wore buttons stating, "Ask me about GO-Tag," and provided help to those unfamiliar with contactless payments. "It was extremely well received," Sayor says, indicating members of the media, delegates and security guards all used the free $10 service. "We viewed it as an opportunity to give the media and the delegates a positive experience with contactless payments," she says. "We're all about driving usages of contactless devices."

The next phase for First Data is embedding GO-Tag NFC chips in mobile phones—similar trials have already been held by other companies around the world. Because American consumers commonly use credit and debit cards, they may be less inclined to try other payment technologies (such as those embedded in mobile phones) compared with shoppers in other parts of the world who have less attachment to the credit card format.

Still, Sayor says, the NFC market is going to have more penetration in the United States than in many other countries—and, in fact, many credit cards are already NFC-enabled. Introducing merchants and consumers to the variety of form factors in which NFC chips can be made available, she says, will make them become more accepting of mobile phone payments as well.

At present, Sayor says, First Data is still amassing data regarding the use of the GO-Tag buttons at the Democratic Convention. However, she adds, "Anecdotally, I would say it went off without a hitch. We were very pleased."

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