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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.
Technology start-up Estimote, which maintains offices in Poland and the United States, also offers a BLE-based solution for use in the retail market. The company's Beacon, which comes with an accelerometer and a temperature sensor, is powered by a non-rechargeable lithium battery that the company says should last for up to two years. "Our tiny and wireless sensors-beacons trigger contextual actions whenever people and their smartphones are in the range," says Aleksandra Puchta, Estimote's community evangelist and PR manager. "We've built a digital platform delivering real-world context to consumers' phones." That platform, she explains, enables the monitoring of Estimote Beacons, including battery levels, the management of any sensor data and the creation of analytics based on the movements and locations of BLE-enabled phones. Estimote's solution currently works only with iPhones and iPads, Puchta notes, but the firm plans to offer standard development kits for BLE-enabled Android phones and tablets within a few weeks.
According to Puchta, the company offers a wide set of applications, including proximity marketing (sending promotional material relevant to a phone user's location within a store or other site), measuring customer traffic and movements within a business, and providing business analytics based on those locations, as well as payment solutions. "Generally, based on our open API, we deliver context-based data," she explains. That means if an individual walks past a coffee shop, for example, his or her phone may vibrate and a coupon for a beverage could be displayed on its screen. Or, in the case of analytics, if a large number of phones are determined to congregate in one area of the store and not another, management could rearrange displays accordingly. Estimote is currently accepting pre-orders for its developers' preview kit. The first batch of orders has already been shipped, with current preorders expected to be delivered by mid-October.Roximity, says it is undertaking technology pilots with its own BLE beacons, which it leases to its customers for a fee of approximately $10 per month apiece. Roximity's iBeacon, which measures 2 inches in length and width and about 3/4 inch in thickness, can be powered by a battery or a wall outlet. The technology works with Apple or Android-based phones and tablets, says Danny Newman, Roximity's CEO.
Newman says his company's beacon solution is being tested at several sports stadiums that have asked not to be named. Although he did not provide the specifics of those pilots, he adds that the technology can be used to examine traffic patterns in such places as stores, parks or stadiums, and to determine the length of a queue of customers waiting to enter a site or to be served. Individuals using the app could also employ the solution for indoor navigation, to determine their location within a building, as well as where they need to go in order to reach their destination.
The technology requires that a user has already downloaded and installed the Roximity iBeacon app onto his or her phone or tablet. The user need not opt in (that is, that person does not have to open a BLE-based app and press a prompt to participate) for the phone to begin communicating location data to the Roximity software. For example, Newman says, to receive periodic coupons or price-reduction offers on the phone, a user could simply download and run a store's app with the Roximity app linked to it. The Roximity app would then provide location data to the store's app, so that it would begin providing the user with location-based coupons, or collect location data for the store's analytics purposes, without requiring the user to opt in.
Apple did not respond to a request for comments.
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