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Beacons Bring Hope to Seattle Homeless

The BLE-based GiveSafe app enables users to be alerted when a homeless person is within their vicinity, as well as view that person's history and make an anonymous contribution.
By Claire Swedberg

The company distributed 70 Gimbal beacons on lanyards to the indigent. As each homeless individual received the beacon, a GiveSafe employee took a picture of that person and input his or her story. That information and photo were then linked to the unique ID number being transmitted by that person's beacon, and were loaded onto the app. Those who live or work in Seattle can download the free app to access information about the local homeless population. As long as an app user has Bluetooth functionality enabled, the phone can respond to transmissions from the beacons.

When a phone running the app comes within approximately 30 yards of a beacon (the distance of a typical city block), it sounds an alert to let the app user know that a GiveSafe homeless person is nearby. The user can then open the app and view who it is. If that person has already selected specific homeless people to help, he or she can also be alerted only about those individuals.

The app enables passersby to view information about the homeless individuals to whom they are considering offering donations.
Once the alert is received, if the app user would then like to make a donation, he or she can select an amount to pay, and send that payment to GiveSafe's content-management software, via the app, using an Apple Pay, PayPal or credit card account.

If the homeless person associated with a beacon has a smartphone, he or she can receive an alert via a text message or e-mail that a donation has been made, as well as the amount. An individual who lacks access to phone or e-mail can take the beacon to a participating store that is using the app at its point of sale (POS). There, stores have a tablet or phone running the POS version of the GiveSafe app. Workers can scan the beacon using the BLE-enabled device, and thus view the balance of that individual's account.

The homeless person can select food or other necessary items to purchase at the store and carry them to the cash register. An employee again scans the beacon, the purchase is completed and the amount of the transaction is deducted from that individual's account. GiveSafe then automatically reimburses the store for the amount of the purchase.

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