Start-ups to Watch: Blue Butterfly with TapToWiFi

Last week I had an interesting chat with the founders of Blue Butterfly, Andy King and Jack Wall.  Blue Butterfly has created an interesting new service for businesses and their customers that uses NFC (Near Field Communications), QR (Quick Response) codes, and any other widely adopted machine readable technology that pops up in the future.  The value is in what their platform does with the machine readable technology to provide consumer insight and engagement for brands, media owners, retail chains on their premises; and critically makes it easy for customers to access what they want.

Their first market is public WIFI, the ‘lead bowling pin’ in their go to market plan. They have an app called TapToWifi which allows consumers to connect to WIFI with a simple tap rather than asking for the business’s WIFI password or going through the pain of registering. The solution can be integrated into loyalty and other channels to give businesses a benefit from the WiFi they’re already offering, which they cannot do today as they lack the tech savvy to do all the backend integration and marketing savvy in making the most of offering something customers want, and for customers it simplifies accessing WiFi to just a tap.

Customers simply tap their phone to a countertop, wall, menu or window. There’s no need to register, remember a password, or enter email address; just “TapToWifi”.

At MWC 2013 my experience of NFC wasn’t that great, compared to the Oyster card it was much slower and “Needed a Few Goes (NFG)” which I suggested should be the new acronym for the technology.  But “TaptoWifi” is a great example of how NFC can do something Oyster cards cannot, and is a use case that is tolerant of the technologies current short-comings, as well as can use QR codes so all the iPhones users are not left out.

Their service provides metrics on usage, makes sign-up simple as its only ever done once, and provides a way to generate more Facebook likes or advertising revenue or other customer feedback from people accessing WiFi.  A use case is easiest way to understand the proposition.  Say you’re a pub, you sign-up with Blue Butterfly, submit your WiFi login details, they send some NFC tags in the post, the pub pops them onto the menus, a customer taps the tag and if they have the Blue Butterfly app they’re in, else it takes them to the App Store to download the TapToWifi app, sign-up once and they’re in.  As with all great ideas its simple, and enables the smallest business to operate with relative sophistication on what has become a hygiene issue.  That is, you would not invite someone to your home and not allow them to use your toilet, the same is true for WiFi, it’s now just plain rude to invite someone to your business premise and not provide WiFi.

Blue Butterfly has deployed the solution and are looking for partners to get their service into the hands of as many businesses as possible.  At a recent conference they had 10% of attendees use the app, and of that 90% came back to use it again and again.  Good luck to Andy and Jack.  GSMA take note, new technologies win where its used to do something that could not be done before (TapToWifi), rather than frustrate users with the inferior replication of a decade old experience (smart cards for conference entry).