IOT News Roundup

Vendor research bodes well for beacon-using retailers this holiday season; the FAA will soon issue rules on drone use; Jasper and Telkomsel bringing IoT services to Indonesia.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Nov 26, 2014

Swirl Survey Says Shoppers Sweet on Beacon Marketing Campaigns

Swirl Networks, a provider of marketing services that leverage Bluetooth beacons and Wi-Fi signals to determine the identities and locations of a store's shoppers (who opt in by loading the retailer's smartphone application) has released a range of statistics regarding marketing campaigns it has executed at Lord & Taylor, Hudson's Bay, Urban Outfitters, Alex & Ani, Kenneth Cole and Timberland retail stores throughout North America. Swirl works with these retailers to craft special offers and messaging to customers who use their respective shopping apps on their smartphones. Most Swirl deployments employ a hybrid Bluetooth beacon and Wi-Fi solution made by Motorola Solutions' MPact offering, though retailers can also opt to use Bluetooth beacons from other manufacturers to push alerts or sales to customers via their smartphone apps.

Swirl says it analyzed "tens of thousands" of phone-based shopper interactions and has, during the past three months, surveyed an undisclosed number of shoppers who received beacon-triggered messages. The results showed that 60 percent of shoppers open beacon-triggered messages on their phones, a third of whom redeem special offers included in these messages at the store. Beyond that, Swirl found that 73 percent of survey respondents believe their shopping apps "increased their likelihood to purchase during their store visit," according to a Swirl press release. Sixty-one percent reported that they are more likely to patronize stores that offer mobile applications leveraging in-store deals during their upcoming holiday shopping, and would be more likely to visit these stores in general. And 60 percent said beacon-triggered marketing messages would lead them to buy more products.

FAA Nearing Decision on Drone Use

A feature published this week in The Wall Street Journal delves into some likely impacts of the years-long development process that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has undertaken toward establishing regulations for the commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones. The FAA is expected to announced proposed rules by year's end. Given their heavy reliance on drones, some companies deploying IoT technologies—as well as their customers—are eager for the agency to decide what it will and will not allow. The WSJ reporters spoke with sources close to the FAA rule-making process, who say the FAA is likely to require drone operators (or "pilots") to obtain dozens of hours' worth of experience flying manned aircraft, just as an actual airline pilot would, before they can operate a drone.

Other expected requirements are that the drone must always be flown within eyesight of the earth-bound pilot, and that it only be operated during daylight hours. These rules would significantly limit some commercial drone applications that involved sensing or mapping specific landscapes—especially in the agriculture or oil and gas industries, since these require the drones to be flown great distances. The FAA's stringency is borne from prioritizing safety, given how crowded U.S. skies could become as drones become ever more popular, both for recreational and utilitarian uses (drones may be used recreationally already, but must be flown no higher than 400 feet, far from airports or dense urban areas, and the pilot must maintain a visual connection to the drone). Last week, airline pilots reported three mid-air sightings of drones flying near New York's John F. Kennedy Airport.

SkyCatch, which sells its drone-based imaging and mapping services to the construction, mining, fossil fuel and agriculture industries, is operating under an FAA exemption while the agency finalizes its rules. Several other drone services companies in the IoT space are working under these exemptions as well.

Christian Sanz, SkyCatch's CEO, says that his company is in close, regular contact with the FAA, and that it is encouraged by the agency's focus on safety. He also noted that other countries have already determined how they will regulate UAVs, and that many of these rules are less onerous on drone operators than what the FAA is likely to decree.

One primary complaint about the likely FAA rules is that they would create a blanket rule over all UAVs weighing less than 55 pounds, despite the fact that many drones are very small and weigh less than five pounds, thus posing a reduced safety risk.

Once the agency publishes its proposed rules, a public comment period will begin, with the finalized version not expected for another one to two years.

Jasper and Telkomsel Team Up to Offer Enterprise IoT Solutions

Telkomsel, an Indonesian mobile phone network provider with 140 million subscribers, and Jasper Technologies, which runs a cloud-based software platform enabling businesses to manage networks of connected sensors embedded in everything from vending machines to vehicle telematics units, are partnering to market machine-to-machine (M2M) services to Telkomsel's enterprise customers in Indonesia—specifically, those in the automation, financial and utilities sectors. According to Jasper, the new service, dubbed the Telkomsel M2M Control Center, will provide Telkomsel's customers with the ability to manage a network of sensors and communications devices, and to access data being collected in real time. It will also include support diagnostics and billing services.

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