Simon to Implement Bluetooth Beacons at 240 Malls, Outlets

By Claire Swedberg

Mobiquity Networks' Mobi-Beacon system will allow shoppers at Simon malls to automatically receive information and offers from merchants.

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U.S. retail real estate developer Simon is deploying a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon system across the nearly 240 malls and shopping centers that it owns or has an interest in, in order to help merchants connect with their customers based on real-time data regarding each shopper’s location at those sites. The solution is being provided by Mobiquity Technologies’ Mobiquity Networks division, which is dedicated to utilizing BLE beacon, standard Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID and QR technologies to connect companies and the consumers they serve. Simon has already installed Mobiquity’s Mobi-Beacon system—consisting of beacons and software—within 75 of its malls, and is further deploying the technology at 165 additional locations.

Simon owns, manages and develops U.S. malls such as Premium Outlets and Mills shopping centers. In 2011, the company began working with Mobiquity Technologies to install a Bluetooth- and Wi-Fi-based system to provide promotions to shoppers via their smartphones without requiring them to download an app. With this system, any phone that has Bluetooth turned on receives an opt-in prompt to accept content. If a user selects “yes,” the phone receives information, associated with the mall stores, via the Bluetooth “Push Messaging” protocol or a Wi-Fi connection. When Apple released its iBeacon solution using BLE technology, however, Mobiquity Technologies developed the Mobi-Beacon, consisting of beacons manufactured for the company by a third-party, as well as a software developers kit (SDK) for use by merchants with their own apps so that a variety of data could be sent tailored to a particular shopper’s location and interests.

Mobiquity’s Jim Meckley

The 240 malls in which the solution is being deployed comprise more than 3,000 unique retailers in 25,000 storefronts. At each mall, Mobiquity is installing beacons, each of which transmits location data in the form of a unique ID number. The phones receive these IDs and forward them to Mobi-Beacon software operating on a hosted server. The location data can then be shared on numerous apps within the mall, or a merchant can request a private network to be used only for their own purposes, and not by other merchants.

Mobiquity Technologies and Mobiquity Networks, based in Garden City, N.Y., have been working with Simon for the past six to eight months to develop the BLE solution, according to Jim Meckley, Mobiquity’s chief marketing officer. Mobiquity has already deployed approximately 10 beacons at each of the 50 Simon malls in which the Bluetooth system was first installed, and is currently in the process of outfitting the other malls with beacons as well—the number of those beacons varying per mall. “In the near term, we will be installing no less than 50 beacons per mall property,” Meckley states. ” Long term, we anticipate having hundreds of beacons installed in the common areas, to enable a high degree of location signal accuracy and granularity for retailers, brands and mall-based advertisers.”

At each mall, beacons are installed in food courts, store and mall entrances, and other common areas. Generally, each merchant located within that mall has its own app (developed independent of Mobiquity) that shoppers can download onto their phones, typically at no charge.

When a shopper comes within range of a beacon, his or her phone receives the unique ID transmitted by that beacon, and any relevant apps forward that ID to the Mobi-Beacon software, along with the phone’s identifier, via the Internet. The Mobi-Beacon software, operating on Mobiquity’s cloud-based server, identifies the phone’s location based on the beacon’s ID number and shares the location data with the app. The app can then identify what media content it should transmit back to the phone, based on that individual’s location. For example, if the user had an app for a specific coffee shop, and if the phone was located within the food court area, he or she could receive a coupon or other promotional information from the restaurant, as well as instructions indicating where to find that shop.

Retailers pay for the Mobiquity SDK, which they can use to access the Mobi-Beacon software. They can then employ the resulting location data to initiate the sending of local messaging and other app-based information to consumers, based on their location. Mobi-Beacon “gives context to the app experience,” Meckley says, adding that “for retailers who embrace [beacon technology], this opens a tremendous level of new experiences and engagements.”

For instance, stores could deploy multiple beacons supplied and installed by Mobiquity throughout the various departments within their premises, and then send data regarding discounts being offered within a specific department. They could also link this information with the historical purchasing data of a particular individual, in order to further tailor the promotional data that person receives. The solution, Meckley says, “basically facilitates contextually relevant engagements with the customer.”

The installation at all 240 of Simon’s malls is expected to be completed within the next six months, Meckley reports. In the meantime, he says, Mobiquity is working with other companies in the retail and entertainment industries, as well as with universities, to install the technology for a variety of purposes. Meckley indicates, however, that he is not at liberty to discuss any further details.

A Simon spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.