SnowShoe Makes Impression with High-Tech Software, Low-Tech Stamp

12/24/13Follow @MichaelXBD

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are the API [application programming interface] and the SDK [software development kit] developers would integrate into their apps to allow the transaction to happen,” Moberg said.

In the wild

Moberg said there are a few use cases the company is exploring. The stamp could activate software to give people access to secure networks, such as helping coffee shops and cafes keep their wi-fi networks secure by limiting them to patrons only, and not people in the apartments next door.

That’s because the stamp-app combination can tell a SnowShoe user where someone is at a specific time, Moberg said. In this case, a barista could have the stamp at the register and could lightly stamp a customer’s phone to give him or her a few hours of wi-fi time.

Moberg said businesses also could use the stamp to run loyalty programs, which apps running SnowShoe software would manage. That could have a few advantages for both the business and consumer. For consumers, it means they could say goodbye to the loyalty cards that clog up their wallet—or that they always leave at home—because all the data could be stored on apps linked to their phones. For businesses, it would be much harder for unscrupulous customers to cheat, and Moberg contends the stamp would be easier to use and cheaper to install than the small terminals that are popping up next to registers.

“We can tie transactions very specifically to your phone, but do it in a way where the only hardware expense to the retailer is a less than $1 piece of plastic that sits at the point of sale and is used to prove that a customer is actually at the cash register paying for a service,” Moberg said.

But there’s another use case that Moberg is interested in, and that’s connecting real world items to their digital avatars.

Think of fantasy computer games, for example, where players love equipping their characters with the latest and greatest weapons, armor, and tools.

Moberg thinks there’s a way game developers could take advantage of that desire in real life, and SnowShoe could capitalize. Game companies could sell memorabilia like a toy sword along with a SnowShoe stamp. A player could buy the sword, load up the game, and then use the stamp to equip his fictional alter ego with it.

Simplicity is a virtue

Knowing what the stamp could do, it’s a little odd to see how low-tech it is. But that could be one of its greatest virtues, Moberg believes.

Some of the biggest names in tech are working on problems very close to the ones SnowShoe is trying to solve.

An example is Near-Field Communication, which could allow mobile phones to communicate with cash registers. Like the SnowShoe stamp, that could be used to run loyalty programs, verify transactions, or grant access to a network.

NFC is more advanced than SnowShoe, but that might be its Achilles’ heel, Moberg said. He believes NFC does not have well-developed standards, and device makers seem intent on developing their own proprietary technology.

That could lead to a scenario where retailers and restaurants have to choose between expensive platforms that lock some customers out, Moberg said. Or they could pick SnowShoe, which works across platforms.

While SnowShoe thinks its idea has a lot of potential, Moberg said it all still needs to be tested by real consumers and businesses. That’s why one of the next big steps is getting it into the hands of as many potential customers as possible, allowing the company to refine the product and its approach, he said.

Of course, money helps too. That’s one of the reasons Moberg relocated to California, where he’s meeting with potential investors while half the company remains in Wisconsin. The startup has had some promising contacts, and the announcement of a seed round might be forthcoming soon, he said.

Michael Davidson is the editor of Xconomy Boulder/Denver. He covers startups, venture capital, clean tech, energy, aerospace, telecoms, and whatever else happens above 5,280 feet. Contact him at mdavidson@xconomy.com. Follow @MichaelXBD

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