Qualcomm’s Firethorn Begins Rollout of Wireless Gift Card Ahead of Holiday Season

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steps that a new bank payment card and transaction-processing network might take to establish itself. Instead of launching a credit card, though, Chip Fishburne, Firethorn’s vice president of financial and merchant services, says the mobile commerce subsidiary has initially focused its resources on building technology for an electronic gift card.

SWAGG logo“Our whole concept is to eliminate plastic,” Fishburne told me by telephone recently. In developing its Swagg initiative, Fishburne says Firethorn also is addressing a common complaint among consumers, who grouse about balances that remain on the card and losing the card itself. Firethorn’s Swagg “gift card” consists of a 16-digit code that is stored on a smartphone and which can be transferred to a friend or relative, and makes it easier to offer loyalty-based programs to consumers.

“We’ve gotten a lot of consumer feedback, and everybody wants to get a deal,” Fishburne says. They really want offers that are relevant and targeted.”

Fishburne noted that the existing gift card industry has mushroomed into a multi-billion-dollar business in part because of the convenience of including a card with a birthday card, and other special occasions, such as weddings and Christmas. With an e-version of the card, however, Fishburne says users will have the ability to personalize their gift card with a text message, and eventually with a photo or video.

The application is designed for smartphones, and will be available initially through Apple’s iTunes and the Android marketplace. While Firethorn has a broad focus, Fishburne says the brand and promotion of the brand is initially focusing on the 18 to 35-year-olds who are most likely to adopt the technology—a strategy that is especially clear on the Swagg website. “It’s kind of got a cool, hip association with it,” Fishburne said. “We’re clearly anxious to get it out.”

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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