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Austin Plans Beacon Deployment for Its City Center

The Austin CityUp program will include a Bluetooth Low Energy-based system from Connecthings, a European company that aims to bring location-based intelligence to app users in North American cities.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 14, 2017

Austin CityUp (ACUP), a consortium of companies and organizations aimed at creating smart-city capabilities in Austin, Texas, plans to install a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon-based solution in the city center. The group plants to test how well the technology provides location-based content to individuals with an app, and what value that will bring to the city, local businesses and app users.

Consulting and strategic planning company Vizias is part of the ACUP team overseeing the project. The solution's BLE system is provided by technology company Connecthings, using BlueCats beacons on the city's 2nd Street corridor as part of ACUP's Smart 2nd Street project.

Vizias' Jay Boisseau
With beacons deployed at locations along 2nd Street, the system will provide users with location-based content such as schedules of local activities, news, and information about bus routes, schedules and alerts of any bus delays. In addition, BlueCats beacons will be equipped, in some cases, with sensors to track such conditions as noise or pollution that might be of interest to people in the area. The system consists of Connecthings' software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform to manage beacon-based data, as well as the app for use on consumers' smartphones.

ACUP has multiple projects related to smart-city applications; the beacon deployment is the first one, and is aimed at real-time data collection and push information, says Jay Boisseau, Vizias' CEO. The participants are still in the planning stages, he adds, and expect to install the first beacons at retail locations within the next few months, and to evaluate the data that can be captured with a smartphone running an app. A consumer-facing app will not be ready for six to 12 months following the initial testing, he predicts.

The long-term plan, however, is more ambitious. The group is currently evaluating how the technology could be used to alert individuals regarding events, restaurants or bars in their area that would be of interest, as well as bus transit information and environmental conditions.

In the case of transportation, commuters will be able to receive browser-based push notifications regarding transportation options, says Louis-Alban Batard-Dupré, Connecthings' North American VP. That may mean bus schedules and routes related to a bus stop where the individual is located, but could also provide information regarding other services, such as ride-share programs, public bicycles or taxis. Both Uber and Lyft ride services were absent from the city for a year when local law enforcement required the fingerprinting of drivers, as well as background checks. During that time, numerous other mobility options came to the city, which are still offered there as well, such as Ride Austin and Chariot.

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