Location-based technology is vastly expanding the opportunities for companies to interact with mobile device users at critical decision points. Industry insiders expect this technology to produce $4 billion in retail sales alone this year, exploding more than ten-fold to an incredible $44 billion next year.
In my opinion, every CEO and every marketer of every product on the planet should be paying close attention to developments in this area.
Recently, Evo-Nexus Startup Incubator – San Diego hosted a great panel discussion that opened my eyes to the amazing capabilities of location-based technology. CEO Neeraj Bhavani of Tanos moderated a panel consisting of COO Kevin Hunter of Gimbal, CEO Nimish Shrivastava of eMbience, and CEO Jonathan Friedman of Footprints Mobile Data. I wanted to be there particularly because we are frequently tasked with developing Bluetooth-related products.
First, the basics. The panelists informed us that location-based technology is not Google maps. It does not help you find out where you are going. Instead, this technology pushes relevant information to your mobile device based on your location, time and frequency of visits to a given location. It uses GPS, cell towers, Wi-Fi, and beacon-based Bluetooth technology in combination to create an imaginary physical enclosure called a geofence. Entering the enclosure triggers receipt of certain targeted messages. With the new iBeacon technology, these geofences can enclose areas down to five meters in diameter.
Kevin Hunter talked about how Gimbal is creating the infrastructure for this technology with hardware and a cloud-based software platform. Nimish’s company eMbience is creating proximity marketing solutions for their clients using this Gimbal platform. One of his company’s retail applications is pushing content to users when they are outside yet close to a store. The result: 21 percent of respondents open their messages and 12 percent actually enter the store. EMbience’s platform can be customized to deliver loyalty program content, YouTube postings, coupons or whatever.
Jonathan explained that Footprints Mobile Data is using this same Gimbal platform to create business solutions. A solution created for Sales Force is making needed sales rep data available when reps arrive at client offices. This solution also logs where reps have been and how long they spend at client locations. Both eMbience and Footprints Mobile Data are creating marketing platforms that clients can use to convey information of all kinds based on location, time and frequency.
Outside the store and office environments, panelists noted that the technology is or will be employed to convey museum walking tour information, replace street parking signs in Los Angeles, communicate expected bus arrival times, play jukebox music, target gas station customers and market events. In March, Austin’s SXSW music, film, and interactive festival, using over 1,000 Bluetooth-based beacons, pushed information to over 150,000 attendees based on their locations within the event. Content included good networking spots for targeted groups of people.
This technology is being touted as “your sixth sense through your mobile device“.
In the Q&A session, a panelist said that being aware of privacy and security needs, companies are taking a very cautious approach. They understand that trust, once lost, is difficult to regain. And with regard to access, a panelist observed that this technology requires opting in through installation of an app on your mobile device. Then, within the app, you can set the parameters for use. The app must be running to push notifications to the end user. It will work if your screen is off and your phone is locked just like a text message or any other notification you receive from other apps.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out and if the staggering growth numbers predicted actually happen.