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New Generation of Mobile IoT Is Changing Consumer Experiences

Startups with solutions that employ Bluetooth Low Energy, Eddystone and traditional Bluetooth will help consumers find their personal property, view product content without an app at stores, and share music from a phone with multiple speakers or devices.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 03, 2017

Mobile technology startups are developing a variety of technologies that aim to disrupt the way in which consumers experience many facets of their lives. During the past few years, numerous such companies have developed Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) or related systems that will enable people to better manage their property, shop for goods at a store with the help of their smartphones, and share their music. Others are currently doing so.

Three companies that were listed as Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) finalists for the 2017 Imagine Blue Awards represent the latest generation of Internet of Things (IoT) and BLE innovators that, according to SIG, could impact consumers as well as companies serving those consumers. Those three companies are TrackR, which offers a BLE system, Beeem Technologies, which sells an Eddystone alternative to traditional BLE retail applications, and Tempow, which provides a straight Bluetooth system for pairing multiple devices for a smart device running Tempow's software.

TrackR's Christian Johan Smith
California-based TrackR offers a BLE solution that, simply put, helps users find their stuff. The application creates a virtual floor plan of an individual's home or other space with plug-in Bluetooth devices in each room, then enables the user to see the in-room location of anything tagged within that space.

TrackR was developed by engineering students at the University of California Santa Barbara, based on a bad experience they had at the beach when they could not find their car keys. The students had enjoyed a morning of surfing while their car was parked on the beach, but when they returned, they found the tide approaching and realized their keys were missing.

Those keys were, in fact, buried in the sand, says Christian Johan Smith, TrackR's president and cofounder, and they were only able to find them—and save their vehicle from the incoming tide—with the help of a passerby who happened to have a metal detector. That event led them to create their own solution in 2010 that now serves consumers; the latest version, released this year, is known as TrackR atlas.

The team started with a coin-sized beacon device known as the Bravo, which could be attached to items such as keys, purses or gym bags, and a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone running the TrackR app. The phone would detect when an object was within range, and the app would employ that information to find missing articles.

Not only can the app help a user find an item based on when he or she comes within range of it, but the data is linked to the phone's GPS signal. Thus, it can store the last known location of an object, such as a set of keys, based on when the phone last detected a signal (according to its longitude and latitude). The app comes with a crowd-based function that allows others in the user's area to anonymously help find missing items, provided that they are also running the TrackR Bravo app and come within range of an object that someone has reported missing.

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