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Companies Deliver New Apps for Bluetooth Beacons
Apple's new iOS 7 has sparked interest in the beacons—which are basically active RFID tags that use the Bluetooth Low Energy communication protocol—from Major League Baseball and other potential users.
Depending on the specific beacon system and app, users might need to opt in each time their phone receives a transmission from a beacon. In other cases, they might not—and they may not even need to download that specific app if it is attached to another application, such as one for a specific store that an individual may download in order to receive promotional and coupon offers.
Last month, PayPal announced PayPal Beacon, which would allow people to make purchases via their mobile phones without removing them from a pocket or purse. The solution utilizes a BLE transmitting device, priced at $99 or less, that would plug into an outlet. The PayPal Beacon device is expected to be made available for merchants to purchase by early 2014, says a PayPal spokesperson. At that time, PayPal Beacon will be compatible with PayPal Here, the company's mobile card reader and application, as well as the basic PayPal payment app.Google Play and iTunes Web sites—enters a store or other business using the Beacon devices, he or she receives a BLE transmission. The phone will then vibrate or emit a tone indicating that it has detected a beacon's transmission. The user would need to opt in (even if the phone runs on the iOS7 operating system) to trigger the phone to respond to beacon transmissions. Once ready to make a purchase, the user can then complete the transaction via the PayPal payment app, by placing the phone near a beacon unit at the store's sales counter.
PayPal predicts that its beacon devices can be used to solve a host of problems, and is appealing to app developers to generate ideas. The company is inviting developers to use PayPal's in-store payments application programming interface (API) to create programs able to accept payments via the PayPal phone app. The APIs can be accessed via PayPal's standard developer kit. Developers are now submitting their ideas for a test version of the PayPal Beacon device. According to the company, the developers will be able to create compelling experiences for customers entering a store, such as an interactive map indicating where sale items are located, or self-checkout capability at a grocery store. "We've already received several ideas from developers, and we are currently evaluating them," the spokesperson states. "We're eager to continue seeing what the developer community can come up with."
PayPal Beacon will work with all Bluetooth Smart Energy phones, which include Android phones and iPhones (model 4S or later). The company does not yet have any pilots or installations in place, but is currently in discussions with several merchants regarding the technology.
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