Liquid Lemon Links South Africans to Social Media

By Claire Swedberg

The company offers RFID-based solutions in South Africa that enable users to share photos and "likes" via Facebook, Twitter and similar sites; clients include Sunglass Hut.

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South African company Liquid Lemon is using cameras, RFID readers and wristbands to connect consumers to social media sites, marketing a product or brand as they do so. The solutions include “like” and photo stations at kiosks in malls and beaches for Sunglass Hut in November 2012 and for the nation’s primary power company, Eskom. In newly opened Sunglass Hut pop-up stores in several South African malls, visitors used RFID wristbands to post pictures of themselves wearing sunglasses. Elsewhere in South Africa, kiosks are being used a variety of locations by the power company’s 49M energy-conservation campaign by linking individuals’ Facebook and Twitter accounts to their pledge to reduce power consumption.

 

Liquid Lemon’s Michael Rogers

Suzanne Rogers and her husband, Michael, launched the digital-marketing and Web-design firm in 2007. The Johannesburg-based couple was inspired to adopt RFID after they met the owners of RealLifeConnect, an Austrian company that uses RFID technology to link individuals with social media. Michael Rogers says there wasn’t an equivalent solution provider in South Africa, so in 2011 he and wife opted to offer Liquid Lemon’s version for the South African market.

The technology consists of wristbands containing high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz 13.56 MHz passive RFID tags made with Semiconductors Mifare 1-kilobyte chips and complying with the ISO 14443 standard, an SCM Microsystems (Identive) reader built into a kiosk that can serve as a photo booth or “like” station, and a software application that links a wristband’s tag unique ID number with an individual’s Facebook page or Twitter account. The app also can share data with Foursquare, LinkedIn and Chinese social networking site Weibo.

In March 2011, Eskom launched its 49M initiative to encourage all South Africans to cut their energy consumption by 10 percent. At the time of the launching, the population of South Africa was 49 million (49M), although it is more than that now. According to the 49M Web site, 8,600 of the nation’s residents have signed up. One of the ways it gains the pledges is through appearances in public places, where the utility company sets up kiosks that use Liquid Lemon’s RFID technology in “swipe stations” (which participants use to “like” 49M and pledge to reduce their power consumption), as well as photo booths.

 

South African utility company Eskom uses Liquid Lemon’s RFID technology in “swipe stations,” where participants can “like” 49M and pledge to reduce their power consumption.

At the kiosks, staff members offer information about energy savings and invite individuals to receive an RFID-enabled wristband. When users receive the wristband, they sign up by providing their name and Facebook or Twitter information. They can then go either to a swipe station or photo booth. At the like area, the wristband is held up to a reader, which captures the wristband’s unique ID, and sends that data to the Liquid Lemon server via a cellular connection. Liquid Lemon’s software then links the ID with the social media information and posts an announcement on the individual’s social media sites indicating that he or she has made a pledge to reduce energy consumption by 10 percent. At the photo booth, a reader captures the wristband’s ID number while a camera takes the individual’s photo. The person’s image, the 49M logo, pledge information and a link to the 49M Web site are all listed on the individual’s Facebook page or Twitter site.

Eskom deployed 49M kiosks at beaches throughout November and December (during the South African summer), as well as at malls, and will next set up its temporary booths at South African colleges to gain awareness among young people.

Sunglass Hut employed the system at pop-up stores in shopping malls located in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Each pop-up store, made from a converted shipping container, had two “like” stations and two photo stations. The Sunglass Hut pop-up stores offered the latest fashions in sunglasses, in some cases showcasing products that were not available elsewhere. Individuals who visited the pop-up stores were offered the Liquid Lemon RFID wristband with Sunglass Hut logo printed on it. When registering at the pop-up store, customers provided social media access information. Afterward, as they browsed through the products, they could place the wristband near a “like” station reader to indicate where they were and the products they were looking at. At the photo booth, a camera took their pictures as they tried on some of the sunglasses. At Sunglass Hut pop-up store in Cape Town, Michael Rogers says about 900 pictures were taken and posted on Facebook pages. About 80 percent of those who visited the store opted to use the technology.

 

At Sunglass Hut pop-up stores, Liquid Lemon set up RFID-enabled photo booths that took pictures of visitors and posted them on their Facebook pages.

The Liquid Lemon solution, says Rogers, enables companies to gain advertising simply by having the users market the product brand via social media. For example, he says, the typical South African has 130 to 140 Facebook friends who could potentially view the likes and photos generated by Liquid Lemon’s technology.

The company’s deployments thus far have been temporary installations for specific marketing events, but it is also developing a solution for runners wearing UHF passive RFID tags to be used at races, and a solution to allow conference-goers to share data about what they did there. The company is also investigating a more mobile solution in which a roaming photographer could walk through an event, go directly to an individual wearing the wristband, use a reader plugged into a tablet computer to read the wristband, and then take a picture. The camera would transmit the photo to the tablet via Wi-Fi, and the tablet could then use Liquid Lemon software to link the photo to the appropriate social media site.

In the future, the company also intends to offer solutions for use with an NFC-enabled phone so that users could simply tap the handset next to a Liquid Lemon RFID tag and send data back to the Liquid Lemon server, to be forwarded to the appropriate Web site.