We often get asked how Beam transactions work so read on if you want to geek out and peek behind the curtain.
How a Beam transaction works
Beam acts as the middle man connecting someone who wants to pay for something with the merchant who wants to get paid. We do this by matching the requests in real time.
Why BLE beacons?
More specifically we use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons, also known as iBeacons to identify which phone is next to a Beam terminal when the payment is being processed.
We use BLE beacons because they offer us the capability to deliver a richer experience. The same system works in ENOC petrol stations where the beacons are metres away on the roof vs Mint Leaf of London where the waiter is holding the beacon a metre away vs Costa Coffee where you tap your phone on the Beam terminal within a centimetre of the beacon.
All the beacon does is broadcast a unique identifier to your phone. Your phone sends that to the Beam backend when you indicate that you want to pay for something.
At the same time the merchant’s POS system is talking to our backend seeking authorisation for the sale.
We join these two requests and if required charge the Beamer’s credit card that we have on file and finally give a successful (or unsuccessful) response to both parties when this happens.
Beam then periodically settles the outstanding amount to the merchant.
Why not NFC?
We are pragmatic and have nothing against NFC. We would use it if we had a use case for it but we find beacons give us the capability to deliver a richer experience. We could not have built the ENOC fuel payment experience using NFC because NFC only works at ranges measured in centimetres, while with BLE we can have beacons sitting on the roof metres away from you sitting in your car and still work perfectly.
Our system is more secure than NFC payments as no sensitive credit card information is transmitted over the air or shared with the retailer. NFC is open to eavesdropping, data manipulation and replay attacks, putting your credit card data at risk. With Beam, all your sensitive information is stored in our secure servers and never sent over the air.