January 7, 2014

Buzz around beacons as retailers roll out the new tracking technology

Posted by: in North America

Buzz is building around beacons—one of our 100 Things to Watch in 2014—the new low-cost transmitters that communicate with mobile devices using Bluetooth signals. “They are poised to transform how retailers, event organizers, transit systems, enterprises, and educational institutions communicate with people indoors,” says Business Insider in a new report on the topic. The Washington Post’s innovations editor foresees them “[revolutionizing] how people interact with everyday objects and places.”

Apple’s iBeacon, Qualcomm’s Gimbal and other such beacons enable retailers and others to send highly targeted mobile messages—what some are terming “micro-location.” Last month, Apple started using iBeacons in its stores, and Macy’s has partnered with the Shopkick app on a test of the technology in two flagship stores. Now inMarket is rolling out beacons to supermarkets including Safeway and Giant Eagle in several U.S. cities. Shoppers using the company’s List Bliss app will see reminders and notifications about deals, coupons and promotions when they enter a store, as TechCrunch reports.

Privacy issues will clearly be an obstacle, but at least some consumers will likely find plenty of incentive to opt in as all kinds of services get creative with the technology. Museum visitors, for instance, could be served up information on whatever they happen to be looking at rather than following guided audio tours. Major League Baseball has already tested iBeacons as a way to guide stadium visitors and send concession offers. The Washington Post outlines a range of other potential uses.

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