Fill 'er Up, Check the Battery and Sell Me an iMac
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1 A mock-up of a screen that might be delivered by Ten Square.
Square expects to expand into Financial and Retail markets within the
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.
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
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