The Magic Of Bluetooth Beacons

2016 is going to be the “Year of the Beacon”, or at least the beginnings of mass beacon deployment. Beacons are part of the latest version of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (BT-SIG) Low Energy (BLE) specification. In simplest terms, beacons are broadcast from a piece of hardware to the nearest portable electronic device—think the cell phone, tablet or computer you’re already carrying—and allow these devices to perform some kind of action. Typical examples are:

  • When you get close to a door, it unlocks
  • When you get near a product in a store, you receive a coupon
  • Walking through a museum you approach a display, and the audio description of that display is sent to your headset

 

USB Beacon

 

The number of different use cases for Bluetooth beacons can make my head spin. In the real world beacons are a marketers dream. I can send you a coupon or relevant information about a product when it’s relevant, when you are near the product. Of course one person’s dream can be another’s nightmare. As a consumer, I don’t want all those notifications and sales tools pointed at me, except on my terms.

At its core, Bluetooth beacons are not about sending information, but about allowing information to be received. Beacons use a combination of both software and hardware.

On the software side, the user “opts-in” and allows something to be sent to them. More often than not, this opt-in is via an app associated with an affinity—a store you frequent, a loyalty program, etc. These applications can track coupons, purchase history, show you locations of products on shelves and generally make a consumer’s life easier when visiting a specific location.

On the hardware side, at least a two dozen companies market beacons that use BLE radios to detect other BLE devices nearby. The beacons are small, the size of a hockey puck, often battery operated. They can cost $20 or less, with the price expected to continue to drop nearer to $10 over the next few years.

At current costs, beacons are already being deployed en masse in both trials and real world situations. Consider the new Levi’s Stadium in San Jose where Aruba Networks (a  Hewlett Packard Enterprise HPE-1.14% company) has deployed 1300 beacons. These beacons have a variety of uses, all based on a user downloading the Levi’s Stadium application to their phone (the affinity program “opt-in”). Once you have the app and are securely connected, the beacons are a great source of indoor navigation: showing you directions to your seat, the nearest restroom (and how long the wait may be) and other proximity-based events.

Article Courtesy : Aruba Networks

Author : Mike Krell

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