Fill 'er Up, Check the Battery and Sell Me an iMac

  • Written By: D. Geller
  • Published: July 11 2000

Fill 'er Up, Check the Battery and Sell Me an iMac
D. Geller - July 11, 2000

Event Summary

Ten Square has its eye firmly focused on the small screen. The company's goal is to be a complete provider of services allowing the delivery of advertising and content to point-of-sale devices.

These devices, ranging from cash registers to kiosks with full-size screens, present a variety of problems that ultimately make them quite different from computers. On the hardware side, each device is based on unique proprietary technologies. On the content side many of these devices have small screens with limited capabilities, making delivery both a creative and a technological problem. Finally, whatever message is delivered to a screen has to be successful in an environment that is usually distracting and has to reach a consumer who has little time and is involved with some other task.

Ten Square has addressed these issues by building a network with the capability to manage, schedule, and deliver messages. They partner with hardware vendors to deliver to the various hardware platforms. They do extensive research of user behavior so that they can tailor messages in a way that users will be most likely to see them. In particular, at devices like gasoline pumps the company has to balance the delivery of appealing and useful content with the need to keep the gas line moving.

Ten Square does not believe that the future lies in delivering the same simple boring message to everyone. Rather, Ten Square expects to deliver messages that are targeted to the type and location of the viewer. Promotional messages, for example, can be chosen with the specific community or neighborhood in mind. Messages at the kiosks in a mall can be chosen to draw shoppers from the anchor stores into the mall's core.

Ten Square is also actively enlisting developers to write for these devices. The company offers a complete development environment, and will certify that applications meet both the hardware and user interface constraints of the devices.

In an early step toward capturing the screens of the world Ten Square announced partnerships with two manufacturers of retail gasoline pumps: Marconi Commerce Systems and the Wayne Division of Dresser Equipment Group. Marconi had previously invested $7.5 million in Ten Square. Ten Square will develop the infrastructure and certify applications for hundreds of thousands of pumps nationwide. Perhaps fifty million customers use these pumps each day, including those of Exxon, Mobil, Shell, Texaco, BP, Amoco, Chevron, and others. The manufacturers will handle sales to individual dealers.

Figure 1 A mock-up of a screen that might be delivered by Ten Square.

Ten Square expects to expand into Financial and Retail markets within the near future.

Market Impact

Ten Square seems not to have any serious competitors at this time, although there are undoubtedly some waiting in the wings. Given the insatiable perceived desire on the part of consumers to be surrounded by ads and other messages, Ten Square is only the beginning. The company should have a good chance at maintaining a leadership position; they have thought out both the technological and user interface issues.

The next functional step is most likely to be more permission-based targeting to individuals. In cases, such as gasoline pumps and ATMs, where the user must be identified before any business can begin, there is ample opportunity for demographic or individual targeting. And the possibilities are endless. For example, if you pay for gas with your bank-issued credit card, the next time you go for cash the machine might let you know that a nearby gas station is having a sale today - and, by the way, the car is getting a bit long in the tooth anyway, so perhaps you'd like to apply for a new car loan?

User Recommendations

Software developers looking to get in on the ground floor of the next wave and take the elevator right to the peak might find it profitable to consider application development through Ten Square's own incubator program. CIO's and CTO's will want to consider whether pulling cash registers, ATMs and the like into their own content and ad delivery systems makes sense. And consumers, balancing off the possible convenience with their own level of concern about digital privacy, may choose to be glad, or very scared.

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