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Austin Plans Beacon Deployment for Its City Center

The Austin CityUp program will include a Bluetooth Low Energy-based system from Connecthings, a European company that aims to bring location-based intelligence to app users in North American cities.
By Claire Swedberg

In addition, air quality could be measured at each point at which a beacon is installed. "One of the things we'll look at is air quality," Boisseau says. Because sensors will be built into the beacons, information such as the level of passes or particulates in the air could be collected and forwarded to the city, as well as to app users. In that way, individuals who have allergies or other health concerns could track the quality of the air they breathe in real time.

By tracking noise levels, individuals can also understand the decibels to which they are being exposed. This information could be of value to business owners as well. For instance, if a band were performing at their bar or restaurant, they could use the sensor data to receive an alert if the decibels were to rise above the permitted level for the city, thereby preventing any complaints. The city could also identify if any construction projects might be noisy outside of the permitted schedule.

Connecthings' Louis-Alban Batard-Dupré
The technology will also be used to provide the city with tools to promote businesses and cultural events. For instance, Austin has a long tradition of live music performances, even as technology is reducing the number of people who attend public venues to hear live music. With a beacon-based system, individuals could view information about bands playing in their area, now and in the future, and venues could offer incentives to encourage them to buy tickets. "We want to make sure live music remains part of Austin's culture," Boisseau states. The technology will provide the city with intelligence to better understand what happens in its city center, and to respond accordingly. "It's a new era," he says.

The goal, according to Batard-Dupré, "is to demonstrate to the city the capabilities of the beacons," as well as the connected location-based content that can be accessed via their transmissions. "Most of the use cases will center around tourism, transportation and local commerce," he says.

Connecthings has installed its beacon-based solution in 60 cities, including Paris, Madrid, Milan and Bologna. This year, it opened an office in New York to begin providing its technology in the United States. Thus far, it is setting up pilots in Long Island City and Rockaway, N.Y., and it also maintains offices in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as well as in multiple European cities.

"For us," Batard-Dupré says of the French-based company, "We are starting to feel the technology is perfect for U.S." In Europe, he notes, the technology is often dedicated primarily to finding transportation, while in the United States, users are less likely to seek rides (since they typically have their own cars), so there is greater value in providing a diversity of content, including local businesses, events and sensor-based data.

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