Shopkick shows innovation in location-based services is not over

I love seeing innovations. Especially ones that are so easy to understand you slap your head and say “why didn’t I think of that?”

Shopkick showed me one of those. What does it do?

It is a mobile app that can tell when you’ve actually walked in a store. How did it do that?

Use Wifi? Nope.
Use near-field communications? Nope.
Use GPS? Nope.
Use RFID? Nope.

All of those had some significant disadvantages, co-founder Cyriac Roeding told me. So, what did his team come up with?



Every cell phone has a microphone, and they found a way to put an audio signal into the air that humans can’t hear, but the microphone in your cell phone can.

So, at the front of a store there’ll be a little speaker that Shopkick designed. When you walk into the store (you must have the Shopkick app running for this to work) it’ll know you are there and can reward you for doing that.

There’s a lot more on the video and article over on Building43, but it’s great meeting innovative companies like Shopkick.

It also shows that innovation in the location-based space is not over. In the video I wonder why Shopkick only focused on shopping. Imagine they put this system into Disneyland. Now a customized Disneyland app could do a LOT of things when it senses you are in a new area or waiting in line for a ride.

Do you have an innovative solution to a problem like this? Would love to hear about it:


10 thoughts on “Shopkick shows innovation in location-based services is not over

  1. Very clever — I love how retro this is. Sometimes the old techs still make the most sense. What will they think of next? Smoke signals? Every phone has a camera…

    More applications that come to mind: distinguishing between friendly visits and intruders (unique sound signature for every one?); rendezvous, assuming they can generate the sound from a cellphone, not just a standalone speaker…


  2. Great video. There were very effective and well communicated arguments in the video as to how this technology reigns supreme over the more modern forms location based technologies. Not at all all surprised at all the early partnerships they have…..I would be really excited as a store owner if I heard about this.

    I can see this being misused in a mall setting though if retailers were to put there signal outside of a store. If you’re close by a lot of stores and they all have it outside you are going to get bombarded with alerts, and deals. Maybe enough of a problem to turn the app off if you’re getting too many?

    Also. We can’t hear the noise, but is my dog going to freak out? 🙂


  3. Excuse me? They expect me to run a smartphone app all the time that has the microphone turned on?

    Battery life much?

    This is a clever parlor trick, but I can’t imagine a scenario in which this technology finds widespread use, simply because of the battery drain.


    1. Android phones multitask, and already plenty of apps run in the background and give you gps based alerts, this is no worse then that. Just depends how often it checks.
      Even Nintendos next machine has a persistent wifi checking thing. The tech is all here now.


  4. Very smart guy. Here are my marketing questions: what is the affect on profit? Why offer a discount for just being there if I am already there? Why discount me on merchandise that I might buy anyway at retail prices? Maybe a store could justify discounts on incremental or unplanned purchases, but how do you tell the difference?

    I see this as a tool with great impact on civic planning or humanistic view. Help people answer these questions: Where am I? Where can I go? What is around the corner? Sure, GPS can do this, but without the “presence” aspect. This tool is s more accurate and faster. (My Nuvi GPS sometimes is behind me, especially at the speeds I drive and turn.) In any event, I would rather have this than an RFID tag in my wallet–on my ear.


  5. I can see this being abused in a mall setting though if retailers were to put their signal outside of a store. If you’re close by a cluster of stores and they all have it parked outside, you might get bombarded with alerts, and deals? Maybe enough of a problem to turn the app off if you’re getting too many?


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