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.
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…
|Our fan favorite app – reminds where you parked your car!
Proprietary Mobile Sharing Ends Today!
There isn’t anyone from the pre-email age who didn’t battle the hassle of sharing files. In the PC’s infancy, floppy disks had proprietary formats – old Kaypro disks didn’t work with your friend’s Osborne 01 disk drive. Utility applications were sold to allow these drives cross-compatibility, but we didn’t see an early definition of standard formatting until the MS-DOS operating system and its clones consolidated the market and eventually, from this format, USB thumb drives were born.
But we don’t plug thumb drives into our mobile phones, and today we endure this same format elitism on these handsets. Consider some of the most commonly-used file sharing services today and their limitations;
Apple: AirDrop uses Bluetooth LE or WiFi to determine when another Apple device is nearby for you to send content. Apples to Apples, literally.
Samsung: S Beam uses a back-to-back NFC tap to share over WiFi directly. Slower than we should expect at this point in mobile tech, and again, proprietary. Not much different than Android’s clunky built in touch to beam.
Motorola: Power-hungry GPS powers the Droid Zap application, which only works on those Droid mobile phones. This is as bad as bumping.
All of the cloud file services require you send an email invite through their web form or by cutting and pasting a link, and that’s easy if there are two of you, but a pain for coordinating with a larger group.
My family and colleagues struggle unnecessarily with file sharing on a daily basis, so we couldn’t be more proud to announce that today’s launch of NewAer Share renders all of these proprietary services completely obsolete.
NewAer Share enables instant file transfers within a single app for your Android, iPhone or iPad or laptop running Windows or OSX. The app uses ambient WiFi & BlueTooth to automagically open a virtual file folder in the space where you are, allowing uploads or downloads of any file in a board room, coffee shop or even a connected airplane.
It’s time for you to be able to use your family room Android tablet to instantly see the photos taken on your iPhone- without emailing them, posting them to a website or using a tethered cable. iPad to Windows, Nexus to MacBook – we don’t discriminate.
Please remember you are accountable for your files and anyone in the space you post to can also see them. Future paid versions of our application will enable more users to join a Share and provide security measures to keep nearby parties who are not a part of your group out of the virtual folder. We get better with every bit of feedback so have fun and let us know what you think!
Download Share for your iPhone, Android device or your Mac or Windows laptop today!
There has been a crazy amount of media coverage this week after the release of the iBeacons API for iOS 7…including much confusion about what iBeacons is and isn’t, from retail stores using beacons to Major League Baseball offering “experiences” around the stadium in their “At the Ballpark” app. Read on to see why Apple is not the first to crack the code for “indoor beaconing,” and why iBeacons are not as accurate as the press leads you to believe.
First, what’s true: We’re at the cusp of wireless change. Especially us at NewAer, as we’ve been pushing this change of the term ‘proximity,’ vs. ‘location,’ for many years. This shift in definition has finally been embraced by the media via big-name technology providers. Apple is driving a new protocol based upon our old friend Bluetooth, called ‘4.0’ and Smart or BTLE (meaning Low Energy), or iBeacons as they like to brand it. Don’t worry about all of these terms – they’re interchangeable.
iBeacons is what we at NewAer have been building for years: a proximity platform on standardized protocols using low-cost commodity chips that anyone can build and place within products or accessories.
There are a few reasons BTLE is exciting for us. The first is that the beacons or ‘stickers,’ which are basic ‘dumb things’ that will emit the beacon signals and work for a year or longer on simple lithium “coin cell” battery power. The other exciting thing about a BTLE signal is that it does not need to be authenticated for your application to read it. This means no more cumbersome pairing – and because they can be identified more easily indoors than GPS signals, to infer a person or a location to trigger something within an app. We call these triggers actions.
Many reporters have described iBeacons as an indoor GPS solution, which it clearly isn’t if you read the API. Instead of thinking of iBeacons as a localization system, think of it as a proximity system, and design your applications appropriately to create an event or trigger when you enter or leave the range of one.
NewAer began leveraging radio waves like WiFi, older Bluetooth 2.0 and cellular towers when all of those required pairing, keys and authentication – we removed those ‘pairing’ necessities before BTLE enabled this functionality. We then added NFC and BTLE support once it arrived. In fact, we had BTLE iBeacon-like support running on iOS 6, when we released our Kiosk advertising app. (See it here in our VentureBeat Minority Report story.)
We’re glad that Apple has recognized the value of proximity. As the leading provider of proximity software in the world, we welcome developers to start thinking about adding proximity to their applications. While iBeacons is exciting, we have been building code around the possibility of proximity for much longer and believe that it should be available on every platform, not just for the iPhone 4S, 5 and 5s and iPad 3, 4 and Mini on iOS 7.
Second, accuracy: Fundamentally, iBeacons gives you access to the proximity of devices. While the API does offer an “accuracy” of a beacon, as measured in meters, this is a very noisy reading of distance and Apple’s docs specifically say that this should not be used “to identify a precise location for the beacon. Accuracy values may fluctuate due to RF interference.” While RF interference could be from other devices, it is more likely to occur because of some simple physical properties of the objects that are likely to be in vicinity of the iBeacon device.
A quick lesson in physics helps demonstrate why this measure shouldn’t be used for exact locations. Humans are essentially large, skin-containing bags of water. Unfortunately for iBeacons, and any other system which relies on radio waves, water is excellent at blocking RF, and it is particularly good at blocking RF at the frequencies around 2.4GHz that iBeacon operates at. Add to that the fact that humans have legs, and are thus mobile, and determining anything from signal strengths starts to get very challenging.
Imagine you are in a room with a BTLE beacon, looking at an application that presents you with a map of your location in the room. If a person walks between you and the beacon, the perceived RF will change significantly, but the distance between you and the beacon is the same. Should your position on the map be moved? iBeacons would lead you to believe that you have, but this is not true. Apple refers to this as “RF Interference,” and this simple physics problem makes any solution that relies on iBeacons as a localization system suspect at best, and misleading at worst.
Now let’s assume that you want to press ahead and use iBeacons for localization anyway. Well then, a single distance measure from a single iBeacon gives you a sphere of a certain radius from the iBeacon on which you reside. On a 2D overhead map this would be a circle. But your app wants a dot on the map. So you deploy another iBeacon in the same area, and now your app can see two spheres which hopefully overlap. But the intersection of two spheres is a planar circle. So you add a third beacon and that gets you a circle which intersects with the plane resulting in a line. Just like with GPS, you need to see four beacons simultaneously in order to determine your exact location. This means a much more costly deployment, all based on the assumption that you can trust the “accuracy” measurement iBeacons is supplying, which Apple specifically tells you not to do. This is why NewAer concentrates on “actions” vs. mapping.
Furthermore, mapping indoors is less necessary thanks to signage… another reason why we avoid that approach. We can find the exit and restrooms just fine with the analog methods.
What iBeacons wants you to use instead of this inaccurate measurement is proximity, which they call CLProximity in the iBeacons API. This is exactly what NewAer has been offering for some time now on iOS and Android, and in our recently released SDKs for Windows and OSX. What’s more, on Android, Windows, and OSX we offer iBeacon like proximity to WiFi access points as well. This means your application can offer iBeacon-like functionality on these platforms WITHOUT the need to deploy a large number of hardware beacons. The beacons already exist all around you in the form of beaconing WiFi access nodes. In addition, on Android, our platform supports NFC and cell towers, allowing you even more options for beacon-like technologies to use to add proximity to your APIs, without the need for costly iBeacon deployments.
So there you have it, a marketing and deep technical dive into the technology that Apple just released, that we’ve been building for every platform for the past handful of years. Welcome to our future! We’re excited to be leading a part of it.
We are excited that Apple has realized the value of apps with access to wireless radio data, and encourage developers to take a look at our platform, which offers iBeacon-like functionality on iOS, Android, OSX and Windows, as iBeacon is limited to iOS 7 devices only. Proximity makes applications smarter, and we cannot wait to enjoy more proximity-enabled applications in the market. We can envision reward applications, movie theaters launching their relevant ticketing and trailer apps when you get near a theater with friends and even deal apps sending us nearby special offers that we actually want.
So what do you think that you can build on an open all-platform SDK? It’s a diverse world out there and proximity beacons can run on every device with NewAer. Download the SDK and learn more about it at www.newaer.com/developers
Dave, Nick and the NewAer Tech team.
We are proud to announce a huge accomplishment from our engineering team today. From our March launch of the SDK for Android and iOS, we have debuted our massive 2.0 update, along with support for every commercial operating system. That’s right, from your laptop running OS-X or Windows, to your mobile phone or tablet running Windows Phone, iOS 6, 7 or Android. You can now develop “machine to machine” aware apps on any platform you develop to.
On Android, we are pleased to announce an experimental scanner for Bluetooth LE, released with Android 4.3 or SDK18 if you’re into that nomenclature. In addition we have a new Bonjour Network Service Discovery scanner. It is rewritten from the ground up so the Android platform can see your Apple devices and some servers or printers on a network.
Based on developer feedback, we have also repackaged the SDK into a single Android library project to make it even easier for developers to add NewAer to their applications. We have also lowered the latency for newly connected devices with improved scanner logic.
We are pleased to release a new list change notification APIs that makes it even easier to write applications for Android with the NewAer platform and have completely rewritten our sample applications to take advantage of all these new features. Check out the included example code for more details.
We also haven’t been slacking on the iOS SDK, which for the first time has features ahead of their Android release equivalents and compatibility with the upcoming iOS 7. On iOS we are very excited to release APIs for peer to peer messaging between applications. These are the first steps on our roadmap to making NewAer not just a discovery platform, but also an inter-device communication layer. We have also improved the background scanning of Bluetooth LE and Bluetooth Bonjour devices.
A big THANK YOU goes out to our growing developer community for the continued feedback on our work. Now show us what you’ve got after you get the code at http://newaer.com/developer-portal/
– Nick and the NewAer Tech Team
At the VentureBeat Mobile Beat conference we did a behind-the-scenes interview and demo of our Kiosk marketing solution. The writer Dylan Tweney makes some great analogies to the movie Minority Report, which used visual recognition to identify Tom Cruise as he walked down shopping mall corridors.
We’ve seen this technology, using a live video app to identify your name in real-time on the iPhone, from our friends at Face.com (now purchased by Facebook and the technology shelved) which could have used a content system to deliver an ad to those faces identified.
As cool as the movie is, there is no way to opt out of the sci-fi eyeball identification technology that Hollywood employed. We believe that using a device’s radio waves, emitted form most every transmitting gadget these days was the right path to take, as these could be turned off at-will by the participants.
So will you opt into more information as you react in a “heads up” manner, not buried in your phone in the real world?
Our Kiosk story from VentureBeat. We are not in the business of pre-crime, but pre-purchase and buying intent. Say you encounter some “smart ads” the next time that you are at the mall – will you opt-in for more information? Or will you remain head down, buried in your phone while the rest of us are in the real world? Lets make things interesting at retail!
In this short video from Intel shot at the VentureBeat mobile conference, we talk about the mobile phone being a “guide” to nudge you when something relevant to you is nearby.
Showrooming is a negative verb for bricks and mortar retail today, but having something we are interested in alert us, then give the ability to inspect tacitly is a benefit that many find invaluable.
Rather than keeping your head buried in your phone, our technology leverages radio signals in the environment into interactions that you will benefit from. Think of it as the ultimate ice breaker for your life… The NewAer SDK enables any device to become aware of its environment and facilitate such interactions.
Source: Intel @ MobileBeat 2013
The NewAer team continues to charge forward as we debuted our newest product, Kiosk, to a full house of nearly 1000 attendees at Venture Beat’s MobileBeat 2013 Innovation showdown. Built as an iPad application on our SDK leveraging next generation BlueTooth Low Energy (BTLE), it automatically displays custom messaging to visitors in retail stores, restaurants or public spaces. The application also contains an engine able to push coupons via Passbook to customers within a store, simply by recognizing a guest’s phone in their purse or pocket.
Here’s why we’re excited: think of this as the inverse of showrooming, when customers search for products online when inside of a store. When our technology is applied, consumers are reached on a unique and personal basis. Even better, this can be done with existing content management systems that host merchants may already employ.
The possibilities to fundamentally alter the customer experience are endless. Remember when Tom Cruise walked through the futuristic mall in the Hollywood movie “Minority Report,” and the advertisements spoke to him via visual recognition? We’re already halfway to living in that world as the plethora of security cameras in use today could provide such a service, but no-one would be able to opt out. NewAer technology uses the unique radio waves from a smartphone or wearable devices to allow users of the service to opt-in to such personalized messaging.
Overall, the VentureBeat conference was very well attended and collected some of our peers in the enterprise and mobile data spaces. We sat in a panel with members of Intel Labs, EasilyDo, and the Basis watch to explain the onslaught of data that will come from the “quantified self” or wearable data revolution currently at hand. More ambient data means more automation or decisions you can make to better yourself. And that is not a bad thing to keep you engaged in the real world, versus looking down at apps on a screen.
In the Venture Beat story from the panel on the abundance of sensor data they quip: “Ultimately, the panelists saw more potential for improving consumers lives with more data, rather than just becoming another headache. Particularly hopeful was Dave Mathews, chief executive of NewAer, who built an entire business around the inherent potential of sensor data.”
So what are you waiting for? See what our SDK can do and innovate with us!
Right as we went on-stage for our Internet of Things panel with friends from Microsoft and Rambus we were able to announce that Fierce Wireless had honored us with an award as one of the top companies to watch out for in the Internet of Things space.
As devices “broadcast and beacon” their bits, our proximity platform enables any app developer to detect and communicate with them, and make changes in the cloud or on the device itself using our SDK and API action engine.
Our thanks go out to the Fierce team for believing in our vision, and we congratulate all of the other winners who brought their own FIERCE into the modern mobile age!
Archived WSJ coverage of the press release and Fierce Wireless story are archived below.
This year at the Cellular Telephone Industry Association’s annual conference, the Internet of Things was the spotlight buzzword. NewAer sat on two panels along side huge companies like AT&T, Verizon and Cisco to give our take on the IoT topic. The first was with CTIA and the second with Fierce Wireless, a group that covers the industry.
After the question of “what are these things” we agreed they are sensors for heart rate monitors, wearable technology like the Nike Fuel Band and FitBit which collect data and exchange as low-bitrate devices. For communication, they can attach to the Internet themselves via WiFi or “leach” off of a companion device to mostly push data to a website or device where their data can be visualized. Some examples like Google Glass use WiFi when they are inside of a space to communicate directly, and use Bluetooth when they are only near a mobile phone. This got me thinking about all of the “things” on the Internet since the dawn of the commercialization of the network.
The first “Internet Things” in the early 90’s were computers boasting dial-up modems, requiring monthly recurring payment for text access. AOL and Compuserve then brought the masses online in a hosted format with text and pictures similar to what we understand the Internet to be today, albiet much slower and with low-resolution graphics and postage stamp video. There was no shortage of concepts to explore the power of the web, from Microsoft’s purchase of WebTV (making your TV an Internet Thing) to free PCs subsidized by virtual ads that plastered display frames while people surfed. The progeny of this work appear today as miniature devices, dubbed IoT. For the purpose of my life’s work, IoT is a small device that leeches onto a larger device via Bluetooth LE, WiFi or other low-power feeds like Zigbee to gain access to the Internet to push or pull data via a smartphone app or web database.
You may sense some deja vu, and you’re right; a big idea from a small Texas company explored the leeching gadget concept way back in 1997. (That’s pre-DVD, pre-flash drive and even pre-camera phone. The digital cowboys of Digital:Convergence worked with Forbes and Wired Magazine to launch the world’s first IoT device, the CueCat. This LED-glowing, feline-shaped, any-barcode-reading gadget was mailed to each publication’s subscribers, or could be picked up from any of the then-7,200 RadioShack locations. Its purpose: interactivate anything with a barcode, or geek speak for “scan the barcode on a magazine or product and be delivered to a website.” This was a truly magical experience then. Remember, Google was just a garage project that was helping you “feel lucky,” Yahoo was the primary method of online research as a human curated directory, and “web portals” were the big idea at the time. There were software applications that could achieve similar results with USB cameras, which were again accessories, but this was the first widely deployed device whose clear purpose was to bring instant Internet from any household good….as long as it retained its barcode.
Many stories have been written about this device as a failure, a has-been, a waste of a strategic investor’s $205 million dollars – however, not a single VC was harmed in the fundraising, as strategic partners found great value in driving further content from their physical product reach. In fact, it was more than a dozen years ahead of itself. Today, smart phone cameras decode the same barcodes that this device read – ISBN, UPC, EAN – plastered to products for the retail supply chain. NFC is still a dream, RFID is used only by the supply chain industry and the QR code is arguably a failed marketing attempt outside of Japan. And probably failed in Japan now. One bright spot: I’m addicted to the magical experience Shazam provides around music, partially because it reminds me of the NBC launch of CueTV, our attempt at audio decoding in the era of “Must See TV.” But I digress down a memory lane.
We attempted to build an operating system for the Internet with audio and visual codes that we called Cues, as the stimulus to enable the actions. Audacious as it seems, the technology and patents created are still being used today, albeit inside of Android and iOS phones as software vs. our hardware, feline approach.
So if the iPhone has rendered so many secondary gadgets like GPS receivers obsolete, and iPad or Android tablets have taken the retail steam out of portable DVD players and digital picture frames, why do so many IoT gadgets appear on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter so often? Why do similar ‘relics’ continue to captivate consumers and investors when Wall Street believes they should catch dust in the garage?
The answer is two-fold. First, despite what marketing campaigns and current habits tell us, we do not want to, and will never want to carry a phone with us all the time, like when jogging or working around the house. Devices like the Nike Fuel Band or Fitbit collect data from our movement while awake and our patterns of restlessness as we sleep. They’re developed with design in mind, and they’re far sexier than strapping a smartphone to your wrist. Or putting Glass on your face.
Second, we technologists dream of a more-than-smart house like the Jetsons’. For me? I want the front door to unlock as I approach… my Nest thermostat knows I’m inside earlier than normal and turns the air conditioning down to a lower temperature without my body triggering a motion detector…and I want the convenience to extend outside of my house as I park my car at the airport for the fourth time in as many weeks. I don’t worry about remembering where I left my car, because my car will remind my smartphone where I parked it.
All of these devices have WiFi, Bluetooth or cellular radios, each of which depend on pairing and communication technologies. I believe the next evolution of the Internet of Things will be built upon a discovery, and our team has a framework to make it happen.
In 2010 our team at NewAer, built an open, hackable engine to power those automagic actions above. We make wireless devices aware of another device. Our SDK can reside in iPhone applications or on laptops or Android tablets, enabling them to become “IoT aware.” It’s a scripting language to empower applications, networks or devices to become intelligent with an easy framework for developers to code upon.
Our partners and investors are Alcatel-Lucent (the original Bell Labs), Deutsche Telekom (operating worldwide as T-Mobile) and Intel Capital, whose proceeds from their chip fabing company Intel likely powers the smattering of computing devices around you at this moment. These companies see us as a next generation network enabler to let devices reroute end points on networks…. like ringing your mobile phone calls on your conference room speakerphone when you’re mid-meeting, or beginning a movie on your television, then finishing it on your tablet as you leave the house thanks to WiFi or Bluetooth ‘fingerprints’ changing, and the devices reacting to the new environment.
Our team is building our own showcase of next generation applications to help share any content to a device nearby, automate actions in a smartphone and prevent people from losing their stuff. We believe devices should be truly smart when they become IoT aware.
For us, a day living among the Internet of Things looks like this: