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Facebook moves to the point-of-sale

Facebook has acquired Tagtile, a startup founded by two US-based graduates of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), as it begins to roll out its Facebook Offers service.

A Tagtile device
TAGTILE: Facebook's stepping stone towards NFC?

In an interview with the Times of India, Tagtile co-founder Abheek Anand has explained how the idea for the company came about and how its technology works:

Tagtile was born in a Mediterranean restaurant, Fatoush, in San Francisco around Valentine’s Day last year over a glass of beer. “Abed, the restaurant owner, complained that customers from deal sites such as Groupon seldom visited the restaurant again. They gave very few tips and there was no repeat buying,” says Anand. “There was no way to gain knowledge about customers’ preferences.”

Tagtile’s approach is different to that of large discount sites such as Groupon or LivingSocial, the Times of India explains:

A Tagtile application can be downloaded on any Android or Apple phone. To merchants, Tagtile offers a white, cube-shaped device that can be plugged near the cashier’s desk.

Once the phone of a user is brought near the plugged tile, it can ‘tag’ a purchase. The app works like a Farmville game. More ‘tags’ unlock a goal, which can be “Buy eight coffees and get one free” or “Get six meals and the seventh is on us”.

Anand, who uses a Nokia 1280, besides an iPhone and a MacBook, claims to use a technology which he and Majumdar have patented. It does not employ near field communication (NFC) technology that is typically used for similar applications. Instead, it’s a mix of technologies which use a phone’s gyroscope, radio and wireless signals to tag.

Facebook made contact with Tagtile because the social networking giant “wanted to get into local business monetisation and deals,” Anand told the Times of India. “Slowly they got interested in buying us out.”

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