McDonalds Starts RFID Trial in Korea

Evan Schuman

McDonalds is experimenting with the ultimate line-buster in South Korea, where customers purchase food on their cell phones, which then ring when the order is ready.

But this trial is much more an RFID effort than a traditional mobile experiment. Most of the phone’s communications capabilities and its display are barely used, with customers having to download a McDonalds application into their phone.

“At each table, there is an RFID reader and a menu that has built-in RFID chips. Customers plug the reader into their mobile phones and point them at the item on the menu that they wish to eat or drink,” said a story in The Korea Times.

“The bill is charged through the mobile phone. When the meal is ready, the system sends a short message to the phone so the customer can pick up the ready tray at a designated counter.”

The trial is being managed by McDonalds and South Korea’s SK Telecom, which has dubbed the effort the “Touch Order” menu. It was unveiled at McDonald’s Shinchon branch in western Seoul near Yonsei University.

The McDonalds trial is interesting, if for no other reason than it is demonstrating yet another way to deploy mobile commerce. Some use the phone’s calling capabilities and screen while others leverage the phone’s digital camera to do some 2D barcode-selling.

Payments can be handled through the cell phone’s number–as McDonalds is apparently doing in the South Korea trial–or through an embedded RFID chip, which turns the smartphone into something akin to a contactless credit card.

The McDonalds trial does this one step better, using an RFID interface through a physical plug-in but not at all for payment.