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Teams, Stores, Museums Deploy Beacons that Emit Acoustic and Bluetooth Signals
An Italian clothing company, U.S. sports teams and a National Geographic museum exhibit are all using Signal360 Bluetooth beacons, which transmit inaudible sounds that most smartphones can detect.
Feb 10, 2015—
Mobile technology company Signal360 is selling a proximity solution that includes beacons, a software developer's kit (SDK) and its content-management system (CMS) software, to integrate its beacon-based SDK with a brand's existing app. The solution also comes with Signal360's beaconing devices that not only transmit Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals, but also emit an inaudible tone that approximately 95 percent of smartphones are capable of receiving, in order to provide redundancy for app-using phones that have their Bluetooth radio turned off.
The New York company's solution is currently in use by Italian clothing retailer OVS, as well as by University of Michigan sports teams, and by the Golden State Warriors professional basketball team. The company reports that additional pro teams will announce their use of the technology in the near future.Oracle Arena, in Oakland, Calif., as well as offer merchandise when visitors are near the team store, and notify them of seat upgrade options as they approach high seats situated far above the court. "We have 20,000 actively engaged, passionate fans at every home game," says Kevin Cote, the Warriors' senior director of digital, "and we want to encourage and empower them to use their mobile devices to truly enhance their experience."
The company providing this technology, Signal360—formerly known as Sonic Notify—was founded in 2011. Alex Bell, the company's founder and CEO, initially envisioned a mobile app that used inaudible audio transmissions from beacons to identify the locations of buses and commuters in New York City, thereby providing those individuals with information regarding bus arrival times. For instance, beacons attached to buses or bus stops could send audio transmissions that would be captured by phones, and the app would then calculate the location of the commuters or vehicles.
"The beacons answer the simple question, Is the user on a bus or subway, or not?" Bell explains. "Because each beacon has a unique ID, we can tell which users are on the same bus, and where the buses are." His company obtained a patent on the technology; however, he says, the bus-location solution would require nearly 100 percent rider participation to be fully effective, since transmissions from just a few phones would not provide sufficient data to pinpoint a vehicle's location, while there was considerable interest in Signal360's solutions instead from retailers. The company then began developing a location-based solution for the retail and sports stadium markets.
In 2013, before Apple launched its iBeacon Bluetooth beacon platform, Bell's company decided to modify and enhance its own devices to emit both inaudible tones and BLE signals. Nearly all phones can receive the inaudible 20 kHz tones encoded with the same unique ID number that the device transmits via BLE, while most smartphones can also receive BLE transmissions. The inaudible tone range can vary from 5 feet to 300 feet (the equivalent range of the beacon's Bluetooth transmissions), depending on the needs of the company deploying the beacons. The form factor of the devices, which Signal refers to simply as beacons, also varies according to a particular customer's requirements. The most common version measures 3.0 inches by 4.75 inches and plugs into a standard wall power outlet.
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