2013 December

The In-Store Experience in 2014

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As Tom Cruise walked through the mall in the blockbuster film “Minority Report” advertisements scanned and recognized his eyes, triggering messaging that to spoke directly to him – asking questions of prior purchases. The NewAer team often uses this scene for inspiration – the penultimate in passive custom engagement driven by technology and uniquely delivered to a store guest.  It’s futuristic, yet recalls a time when store owners actually knew their customers, what they liked and what they’d purchased previously.

Today in the land of big-box retail stores the customer has been lost by virtue of volume.  Yet E-commerce giants like Amazon know your personal habits just as those old neighborhood merchants at the 5 and dime did. It’s a digital step toward that Minority Report experience…and in 2014 the NewAer team is combining our Proximity Platform with the intelligence of the E-commerce industry to create real-life ‘wow’ moments for shoppers.  In the coming weeks we’ll release software both directly and through partners to let big-screen digital signage inside a store speak to customers and enable any brand tablet to be used as this intelligent marketing engine…to name a few early examples, as we’re readying our first retail display software product beta’d in 2013 called Kiosk, for an early 2014 launch.

Consumers can already see other players in the industry experimenting with the concept of passive engagement.  Inside of the Apple stores, iBeacons trigger within your proximity and internal location-based push notifications pop a message on your phone when you walk near accessories, similar to getting a text message.  While this is clever, it’s a bit generic…does every customer want alerts on the same merchandise?  Plus, the experience nags with a second notification when as a guest walks by the same beaconing point again. We feel that will aggravate consumers to the point of them disabling this service, and it’s a pain point we have anticipated.
The NewAer Platform eliminates duplicated events messages as well as allowing retailers to mimic the behavior of the advertisements in Minority Report, with the advantage of empowering the consumer into opting in to this engagement.  With Kiosk running on a dedicated PC or tablet, it will “wake up” with a special message to specific customers based upon what a retailer knows about them.  If a merchant has a back-end database of prior purchases, rewards or points, the display becomes even more engaging to the customer.  NewAer stands for ambient, automagic events happening behind the scenes without the annoying check-in or another action performed on any device.  Thanks to the power of our cloud-based beacon system, the device and the environment operate seamlessly with one another.
For this to work, we leverage our Proximity Platform to enable smartphones, tablets or computers to communicate through a scrambled identifier, beaconing to other wireless devices.  For retail stores, these identifiers are used to greet customers within radio range of our Kiosk application.  By opting into broadcasting this unique number, personal identity is masked by our platform, but the retailer (who may have a loyalty program) can address the customer.
To see further how our double blind system works, you can read more about our privacy policy to see how we step out of the loop on user data and enable machine-to-machine communication links.
So there you have our wrap-up of 2013.  We are excited to see where our industry of proximity marketing is headed.  While early stories are just starting to come in from technologists, we are monitoring consumer habits and the latest wins and fails in the industry to make the most robust, customer friendly, customizable solution with our NewAer Proximity Platform SDK.
Here’s to a great 2013, and the future of 2014 cannot come soon enough!

Tis’ the season for Beaconing and Shopping!

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Holiday shopping dollars are down this year, but technology companies are scrambling to push new in-store digital initiatives.  Most are in the form of low energy Bluetooth transmitters, to check you into a store and present offers.  As the forerunner of this category, we are happy to see our peers attempts into these initiatives.  Here is a rundown on the headlines for this burgeoning beaconing industry leading into the retail season from the summer of 2013…

July 10th, NewAer publicly debuts Kiosk at the MobileBeat Innovation Showdown.

This app is built upon our “peer to peer” proximity SDK to let a phone or wearable “health and fitness” BTLE device trigger an iPad running our custom software.  When a guest approaches, it displays custom messages for them in a store or museum.  A story and interview shot on the 10th of July was published to the web later, after editing.
Our fan favorite app – reminds where you parked your car!
September 9th, PayPal aims to re-invent the in-store shopping experience with their Beacon product, which gives their users in a store a personalized experience to those who have the PayPal application.
September 26th, Apple announces that Major League Baseball will use their iBeacon service to trigger the MLB app and give fans information throughout ballparks that leverage the technology.
November 5th, NewAer receives its first granted patent #8,577,354 to automate actions on a phone network based upon scanned wireless signals.  This is our SDK engine to scan any wireless signal, then trigger an automated action in your handheld device, or make a change within the cloud.
November 7th, Qualcomm invites us to speak on an LTE-Direct panel with other industry leaders about our machine to machine discovery efforts with WiFi and Bluetooth, and how LTE-D will be yet another radio for our Proximity Platform to leverage.
November 20th, Shopkick announces that Macy’sstores in San Francisco and New York are the first to deploy iBeacon.  We tested it in NY on multiple devices and no beacons were found on iOS 7 nor with our Proximity SDK which “sees” said beacons.
December 6th, Apple announces 254 stores will use their trademarked iBeacons to notify users via the Apple Store application when things are nearby with their iPhones (we tested this on an iPad to no avail) running iOS 7 with push and location services turned on.
December 9th, Qualcomm wraps up the press releases with their announcement of making their Gimbal sensors or short-range tracking “proximity beacons” commercially available as part of their context aware platform, which lets retailers know when a customer has entered a store.  They have iOS support today, with plans for Android support in the future (see below on their disregard to the Android OS Bluetooth stack)
With all of the tech press talking beacons, what’s our take on it?

Our NewAer Proximity Platform SDK is the only software only, all device (Windows, iOS, Android and OS-X) plug-in with the ability to automate actions from all radios (WiFi, Bluetooth, BTLE, NFC, Cellular and Bonjour on-LAN) that a device can receive as an application plug-in on the market today.  With our extremely low-power software based scanning engine in development since 2010, two patents allowed, and another handful pending, we have the most robust set of capabilities in the space.  To see it work for yourself, you can download our Share App on any mobile device, or read the JavaDocs of our SDK.

With our Proximity Platform SDK, you do not need to install new hardware as the world is flooded with WiFi access points, and commoditized BTLE beacons like Stick-n-Find or FitBit activity monitors can trigger events without deployment of devices within an occupied space.  This means that anything emitting a signal can be received to automate actions within a users device or the cloud.

PayPal’s Beaconlaunched as a USB thumb drive sized device using a BTLE chip to allow a customer to “check into” a store – as long as the user has the PayPal application and the store is in their database.  Offers are managed through the PayPal system where they can also handle payment, as PayPal is a money-sending engine after all.  If you are a small retail store, especially without a credit card processor, this may be the best “self serve” solution for you, as they provide the user application, a daunting and perhaps unnecessary task for a small merchant.

Shopkick uses a similar beacon and business model, where the retail user manages their offers within the Shopkick database requiring the customer to have their Shopkick app installed.  This is much like the lesser used and we presume end-of-life Shopkick audio transmitters that the company debuted as an indoor “localized” trigger.

Apple iBeacon, uses their iOS core location service, which acts as a front-end filter for the Bluetooth communication stack and does not pass the BTLE device data into an app like a traditional BTLE device.  That means if you do not have an associated app for a beaconing location on the iPhone, then nothing will be triggered on it.  Once the right app is installed, location services, background operation and push notifications must also be enabled, and in most cases you must have mobile connectivity to the smartphone to engage the application.

This technology has promise due to the volume iOS devices used in the developed world, as the only fees are that of the proprietary iBeacon.  The downfall is typical of Apple’s “walled garden” approach and limitations, along with a lack of Android support.  Since WiFi is not supported, these new BTLE devices must be placed within a store, existing wireless infrastructure cannot be used.

Qualcomm LTE Direct, presumably coming in the future, will enable discovery of devices over traditional cellular frequencies, even if Bluetooth and WiFi is turned off.  This technology has great potential for public value, as long as the carriers support cross-network communication.  Meaning, if a Verizon phone can only see another Verizon phone, then the proximity value ends.  Carriers need to keep this communication channel open for mass adoption and value to occur.  Qualcomm will want to sit in the middle of these transactions to receive compensation however, which could be further downfall to its launch expected in 2015.

Qualcomm Gimbal, like LTE-D their Fyx beacon talks to their iOS SDK in another walled garden that goes so far as to crash the Android stack via its “security by obscurity” implementation.  We will have another post on how to easily “crack” this, pending it continues to ship.  Core to the Fxy problem with Android is that it rotates through a new MAC address every half-second, which floods the Android Bluetooth Share background process with too many entries.  This can only be solved by a VERY long cache timeout, restoring the operating system or upgrading the OS.  Qualcomm knows of this issue, but we recommend removing the battery from a Fyx beacon if you have one to prevent this MAC spamming.

So there you have it – the press releases from companies in this new industry, and a brief on what those players are up to.

As a wrap-up; NewAer is the first in the industry with the ability to scan any radio wave, including WiFi and some devices Cellular, and Bluetooth 2.0 plus beaconing Bonjour devices if a user is on a network.  This gives our framework the ability to provide customer solutions using infrastructure that exists in most any location today – without requiring new technology roll-outs.

For developers, our NewArea API ads the element of the very first cross-platform solution to infer proximity between devices that normally would not be able to see each other.  This means iOS and the rest of the ecosystem including Android devices, and even Windows based computers driving displays within a public space can share proximity data.  Another first in the industry.

We are proud of what we have created, and cannot wait to hear how you would like to use it within your own company applications.  Download our SDK here