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BLE Beacons, Mobile Technology and Digital Signage

BLE Beacons, Mobile Technology and Digital Signage

[Editor's note: Author Kevin Hunter will be a panelist on the Digital Signage Federation’s July “Hangout” discussion entitled, “Intersection of Digital Signage with NFC, BLE and Beacons,” on July 29 at 2pm EDT. More information on this and other DSF events can be found on the DSF website. Both DSF members and non-members may join this or any of the DSF’s scheduled Hangout conversations for free – but registration is required and can be accessed on the DSF website at http://www.digitalsignagefederation.org/event-1992632 ]

Increasingly, businesses expect to be able reach their customers with heightened effectiveness and accuracy, while also understanding how their various communications and campaigns have performed. With the expansion of tools available for serving and analyzing online mediums, other industries suffer from a lack of similar metrics. This has led to the world’s brands and advertisers devoting their resources increasingly toward these measurable investments and away from traditional methods that lack the same capabilities. However, the emergence of technologies has helped the physical world shorten many of these gaps with the digital world and provide comparable tools that make traditional mediums like Out-of-Home (OOH) and Digital Signage appear valuable once again. In particular, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Beacons have emerged as an opportunity for media players.

Kevin Hunter, C.O.O. of Gimbal, Inc.
BLE beacons have established themselves as a micro-location and proximity solution with many use cases. While adoption is rapidly occurring among retailers, venues, OOH networks, advertisers, municipalities, mobile app publishers and more, others are still unaware of the opportunity. The world of proximity-engagement is becoming increasingly lucrative and proven, with Business Insider Intelligence recently estimating a 10x growth rate in-store retail sales influenced by beacon-triggered messages, taking it from $4.1 billion in 2015 to $44.4 billion in 2016.

Beacons are effective from 50 meters down to inches and come in various form factors and power configurations. They can be standalone pieces of hardware that are battery or AC-powered or can be integrated into existing firmware that has a BLE radio, like a Wi-Fi Access Point. Beacons constantly transmit a signal that an opt-in user’s mobile device can detect. After detection, a pre-determined engagement is then displayed through a proximity-enabled mobile application that the end user can act upon.

Unlike other engagements served through a mobile device, beacons are based on someone’s proximity; one qualifier for inferring or determining relevancy. They can be used indoors or outdoors and are commonly used for micro-way finding, hyper-relevant engagements or foot traffic/heat mapping of physical areas. Within OOH and Digital Signage, some of the use cases include dynamically changing displayed content based on what audience is in front of the asset, making it something the customer is more likely to act upon since it likely pertains to them. It also allows for static signs and advertisements to compliment or alter their engagement to customers by sending content to the end-users’ mobile device.

However there are a few things to consider when implementing a proximity network:
Security – It is important to choose proximity-beacons that allow you to control who can access your beacon infrastructure so that others cannot use your network to advance their purposes without your consent. It is vital to control the digital experiences users have when interacting in your physical area.
Monetization Opportunities – If you have control of who can access your beacon-network, an opportunity then presents itself to sell access to the mobile applications and advertisers of your choosing. Proximity-network owners can turn their beacon investment into a revenue generator.
Real World Analytics – Media players have a particular interest in being able to understand the effectiveness of using or leveraging their assets, especially when the objective is to “digitally lease” access to advertisers and brands. It is possible to view things such as the conversion rate associated with a served beacon-triggered engagement. Enterprise-grade platforms and tools allow beacon owners to show things such as how much foot traffic they have in front of one sign between 3 – 6 p.m., versus a different sign across town. These insights allow you to understand the value of your assets more appropriately and also allows you to accurately price your location.

Conclusion
In the era of omni-channel engagement, beacons need to be used as a valuable tool in the tool kit, but as part of a broader strategy. In digital signage, there are instances where NFC, geofencing, or social media may also be valuable depending on how the business wants to interact with the end user and what action they are trying to drive.

Mobile advertising and Digital Out-of-Home are two industries that are rapidly growing. While it appears mobile advertising will grow faster than any other medium in the next few years, OOH media is one of the most pervasive, constantly present channels end users interact with throughout their day. Combining the benefits of mobile devices with the exposure of OOH multiplies the effectiveness of the two industries and creates a combination that is able to interact with end users in ways never before possible, while creating a platform advertisers are unable to ignore.

Author Kevin Hunter will be a panelist on the Digital Signage Federation’s July “Hangout” discussion entitled, “Intersection of Digital Signage with NFC, BLE and Beacons,” on July 29 at 2pm EDT. More information on this and other DSF events can be found on the DSF website. Both DSF members and non-members may join this or any of the DSF’s scheduled Hangout conversations for free – but registration is required and can be accessed on the DSF website at http://www.digitalsignagefederation.org/event-1992632