Suica IC Cards Make a Splash with Electronic Posters
Japanese IC cards have pop posters grooving to a techno beat this summer. Fans of hunky J-Pop star Shogo Hamada just flash their Suica rechargeable RFID train commuter card at specially designed high-tech poster displays around town to reserve a copy of his newest album, My First Love. Japanese are calling this new interactive ad medium, “Denki Posta” (electronic posters). Popping up in all sorts of variations, most have plasma-display panels and flat-panel speakers.
Suica’s IC card technology has been a runaway hit in Japan. More than ten million are in circulation around the country and the service has brought in numerous retail partners for cashless payments at shops and restaurants within the stations. It was developed by Sony together with Japan Railways East Corporation and will soon migrate from hands to handsets. In January 2006, DoCoMo plans to combine their Felica smart card e-money platform with the Suica commuter card into a series of mobile handsets.
Free-standing poster display units have been set up in Shinagawa, Tokyo and Ueno Stations –- all giant commuter hubs.
Users pass their Suica card over the reservation point and the display unit then prints out a free reservation receipt to present at linked CD stores right on the station concourse during the 7 July – 31 August promotional period. Music fans reserving their album this way receive a premium gift when they turn in the reservation receipt –- a specially designed Shogo Hamada pass case into which they slip their Suica. Lost receipt? No problem. Fans go to the station concourse CD store (the same station they made a reservation at) and present their Suica card. If the store scans match, no problem. No charges incur for the reservation or to play demo versions of the songs.
Denki Posters are proving to be a popular and dramatic ad medium. Most displays are set up in large public areas such as train stations or shopping arcades to minimize any chance of vandalism (click on this link for a large-scale electronic poster display using Oki technology at a JR Station; the 16 50-inch displays synchronized with wireless phones and PDAs). Incorporating IC card readers into this medium, as the Shogo Hamada campaign does, brings in a new but not unexpected element.
Cards also separately activate a speaker unit built into the Shogo Hamada denki posta broadcasting short selections from the album (click on the Flash button on the far right poster by Oki Electric to see one in action).
KDDI and Vodafone plan to join the Felica system and inevitably bring Suica functionality in as well. Since Sony also developed Felica, it’s a win/win, break-out-the-cigars-and-champagne situation for them. Shogo Hamada, too, is part of the family. He is under contract to –- Who else? — Sony Music Entertainment.
— Gail Nakada