Needed: Best (or At Least Better) Practices for Beacon Deployments

Everyone in the beacon ecosystem, from marketers to infrastructure providers to app developers, can find teachable moments in New York City's decision to pull a network of beacons from its phone booths.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

Already, tens of thousands of Gimbal beacons have been deployed, but most have landed in retail stores or sports stadiums. Looking ahead, Hunter told me, Gimbal sees opportunities in acting as a sort of conduit for all sorts of information being pushed through applications to a smartphone user strolling through a city. So, say I visit a new city. I download an app on my phone, check off some broad areas of interest, in terms of the types of experiences or commerce I'm interested in, and then give the application provider the green light to send me notices.

This information "doesn't have to be deals or promotions," Hunter stressed, though it would likely direct me to "key restaurants" in the city, or "key social" venues. Over time, he explained, the alerts I'd receive would become highly personalized. "This would be many parties joining in to one app," he said, "and then using logic, based on past actions, to know what the individual is interested in and then sending them only those alerts."

A coin cell beacon from Gimbal
Hunter said the value here, as beacon networks grow, will be that Gimbal will "filter out the noise digitally, to show you what you want to know." To do that, the company will pull together an ecosystem of different parties to play together—which will obviously include retailers and application developers.

If there is one lesson to be gleaned from the Titan debacle, it is that the success of this kind of multi-party beacon application in public space is going to hinge on transparency. The point is not whether nefarious parties (or just marketers) were actually secretly collecting beacon transmissions, unbeknownst to citizens. The point is that this is the perception. Said the Buzzfeed article, "…the spread of beacon technology to public spaces could turn any city into a giant matrix of hidden commercialization—and vastly deepen the network of surveillance that has already grown out of technologies ranging from security cameras to cell phone towers."

Gimbal requires any application developer whose software leverages Gimbal beacons to communicate with consumers to comply with three cardinal rules:

1: The apps must have transparent opt-in procedures.
2: The app user must have the ability to turn the app on or off.
3: The app user must be able to delete the app from the phone.

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