This is the age of the start-up. There is so much awesome tech being developed, particularly for retailers. What we’ve noticed is because most of this tech is being developed in the US, it’s US retailers that are taking advantage of it. We think it’s important Aussie retailers get ahead of the game (esp. as the world becomes flatter and US retailers become direct competitors). So below are three tech start-ups we think Aussie retailers should be watching:

1. Snowshoe: This is a part of Disney’s Accelerator program. In essence it’s a stamp that can unlock content or create an action when pressed to your smartphone, tablet or laptop. The stamp is a little plastic widget (which can be made with a 3D pinter for less than a dollar) that conducts electricity and can send a signal to the screen or trackpad, when it touches it. The device reads the stamp and then provides a programmed response. The stamp has no battery or need to be recharged but obviously needs the software that has been developed for it to work. What’s great about this tech is its possible applications to improve the retail experience. For example, it can turn a smartphone into a door key or a membership card; maybe even better is that it can do multiple things at once – in the video below CEO Claus Moberg explains how a coffee shop can use it to allow it’s customers to check-in on Foursquare, connect to their wifi and stamp their loyalty program, with just one press. Pretty amazing for a simple plastic stamp.

The company is currently sending out free stamps as a trial pack or you can pay $10 for a full kit.

2. Cover: We all know about the pain of paying when it comes to dining with others. There’s been a lot of behavioural economicswork done in this area. Basically, paying for a meal is something that weighs on our mind when we eat – add to that when you share a meal with someone else. So enter ‘Cover’.  It’s an app that’s been in beta for nearly a year and only in operation in NYC (in over 80 restaurants) and San Francisco (in 19 restaurants). It partners with local restaurants, integrating it’s software into their POS systems. When diners enter the restaurant they create or join ‘a table’ in the app and tell the restaurant they are paying using Cover. The restaurant will then split the bill automatically at the end of the meal and you pay for it through the app (without your phone leaving your pocket).CoverCover started-out working with Michelin-star restaurants (where customer service is paramount) and is gradually moving to take out. Download the app here.

3. Spark: Spark started on crowd-funding site Kickstarter in 2013. It is a tiny wifi development board that allows pretty much any object to be connected to the internet (or be a part of the ‘internet of things’). More than that it can work for retailers and development teams to enhance environments or products. Current projects using Spark include, fridges that display Twitter feeds, lamp displays that change colour according the weather, or Twitter torches that light up when people tweet to a certain handle. We particularly love a project called ‘Pointman‘ which uses Spark to monitor meetings and lets meeting rooms appear as free in office calendars when meetings are a ‘no show’. We think Spark has big applications for in store (as you can see from the examples above). Spark Wifi That’s our wrap of what to watch in the tech area (at least for now)!

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