Life aboard the Star Trek Enterprise portrayed a futuristic mix of technologies with capabilities of connecting machine and humans alike. In each episode, invariably a crisis would ensue, requiring the Ship’s computer to locate a crew member – such as the irascible, Lt. Barkley. As we sat watching the futuristic episodes, it seemed as if that level of mobile technology could never come to be. But now, in today’s mobile era, this technology might not be so ‘futuristic’ anymore.
Jump to 2014, where context-aware services have exploded onto the tech scene, bringing with it the promise to revolutionize the mobility industry, perhaps even eclipsing its fictional precursor. There are many context awareness apps on the market today, but one eerily similar to our Trekie example is the Estimote Beacon, a tiny wireless sensor with a Bluetooth 4.0 chip. A commercial use case for the Estimote lies in retail. The Beacon can be deployed to not only track, but interact with shoppers as well. The second a shopper’s smart phone nears a sensor, a personalized micro-location signal is sent out. The diagram below portrays a shopper’s mobility experience enabled by the Estimote beacons.
Overview of retail application of Estimote beacons, image courtesy of Estimote
As a shopper initially nears the venue, her smart phone is sent a marketing message – something along the lines of “Welcome, Please Come In”. As she nears different points or products inside the store, her smart phone is alerted again – this time perhaps with discount pricing or coupons. Lastly, when she is ready to purchase, the payment is handled wirelessly and completely automatic via her smart phone. There is no check-out line, no waiting, & no hassles. Just imagine what this could do to free up holiday times!
As in Star Trek, context-aware services are used to determine a member’s exact identity and location. But now it goes beyond that, retailers now have the ability to not only indentify location but actually guide a shopper’s behavior, in real time – thus digitally going where no retailer has gone before.
By: Tom Sheffield