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Motorola Solutions' MPact Brings Indoor Location Services to Stores

The hybrid Bluetooth beacon and Wi-Fi solution enables a retailer to identify where participating shoppers with smartphones are located, provide them with relevant promotional data and help them connect with store personnel.
By Claire Swedberg
May 08, 2014

Numerous retailers are currently testing a mobile marketing platform from Motorola Solutions' enterprise division that allows them to identify where consumers congregate within their store, and to create a two-way communication with each shopper based on his or her location. The platform, known as MPact, accomplishes this by employing a combination of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technologies. The MPact solution enables big-box stores and other retailers selling a wide variety of products to identify where customers are located onsite, and to not only enable the display of data relevant to each shopper's location (such as discounts of goods on that aisle) on that user's smartphone, but to also allow her to communicate with store personnel directly, by setting up a text, chat or phone communication to ask about products.

Motorola Solutions is well situated to offer such a solution, says Barry Issberner, the solutions marketing manager of the company's enterprise division. The firm already provides hardware such as Wi-Fi access and RFID to all of the top 100 retailers in the United States. During the past few years, the company has been hearing from its brick-and-mortar retailer customers regarding their need to better communicate with consumers via mobile phones. What's more, the firm has been conducting its own shopping-behavior surveys for several years, which have revealed a growing dependency on phone-based data by consumers, who may shop for an item online while in the store, for example. The most recent survey found, for instance, that 81 percent of Generation Y and 73 percent of Generation X use their mobile devices for shopping.

Motorola Solutions' MPact Bluetooth beacon
The MPact platform is intended to enable retailers to engage with their in-store customers more personally, Issberner explains, thereby increasing sales or preventing the loss of a sale. MPact software, operating on a cloud-based server, uses the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology on a customer's mobile phone to pinpoint that individual's location within the store. Based on the location data, the software will prompt the display of appropriate promotional materials and enable communication between the consumer and store personnel.

Barry Issberner
Motorola Solutions opted to develop a hybrid Wi-Fi and BLE solution to draw from each technology's unique strengths, Issberner says. By using Wi-Fi alone, companies can identify an individual's location within about 30 feet—but that is insufficient, he notes, to pinpoint the specific store aisle or shelf where that shopper is located. BLE solutions have been proliferating during the past year to provide more specific location data indoors, but they do not typically enable a user's phone to communicate with a Web-based server. Instead, a user has an application on her phone that displays a response to transmission related to a specific beacon. But in most systems, he says, the phone does not go online to access or send data. By employing both BLE and Wi-Fi, Issberner adds, the MPact system can obtain very specific location data (within about 4 feet) from the BLE beacons, and then enable an ongoing sharing of information between the phone and the back-end server via the Wi-Fi connection.

To develop the system, Motorola Solutions has partnered with several mobile marketing technology companies. Aisle411 can help locate an item based on a user's search queries. Phunware's software provides location information and contextual data based on that location. Digby (which Phunware acquired this month) provides geofencing-based data around the exterior of a store, in order to identify when an individual is near the premises. And retailers can employ Swirl Networks software to manage the content delivered to consumers' phones. Motorola Solutions' MPact software receives data from all of these systems and provides statistics that retailers can access to learn details regarding shopper behavior.

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