Bluetooth Beacons

You probably use Bluetooth every day. Your ability to talk on your phone through your car’s speakers, your wireless mouse, wireless headphones and your iPhone’s wireless hotspots are utilizing Bluetooth technology. It’s nothing new, and really a basic standard in the world of device connectivity. Right now, while you’re reading this, your phone is sitting on our desk looking for Bluetooth connections. If nothing is specifically looking for it, nothing will happen. A relatively new technology is looking to change that.

Low Energy Bluetooth Beacons are devices that are roughly the size of a pack of Wrigley’s gum and they can run on a 9-volt battery for over a year. They simply sit somewhere and broadcast that they’re there and waiting for your phone to notice. On the surface, this doesn’t sound interesting; it’s just another wireless way to communicate. However, once you look into potential use cases, things become a lot more interesting.

Let’s say I download our local auto dealer’s app to my iPhone. It does fun things like send me coupons and let me enter contests. But now, I’m at the dealership for service. My phone is sending out Bluetooth signals as always, but this time it finds a beacon. It knows that this beacon is at automotive dealership A. Now, my app knows that I too am at auto dealership A. My app wakes up and thanks me for coming into the dealership today, it alerts my prior salesperson that I’m here and even notifies the service department that my car is here for service. It keeps track of how many times I’ve visited and how long I’ve stayed.

Now, I have my local beverage company’s app on my phone. I’m walking down the street and get an alert that my favorite cocktail is on special at the bar I just walked past. As a matter of fact, it can even pop up and give me a VIP ticket to a tasting happening there next week. If we really want to get a little big brother, we could even put our beacons in neon signage that we give to the bars and track how many people with our app visit each bar each week.

This doesn’t rely on GPS or other location tracking and can be more accurate than traditional location services. We may be a couple years away from being spied on by our Bluetooth trail, but it is coming and it is cheap. One beacon costs under $40, and will likely be under $10 before the end of the year. It’s not a too distant future where you’ll put on your Google glasses, turn on your Bluetooth and wait for your virtual billboards…