Understanding Beacons: A Guide to Bluetooth Technologies



Local Search Association and Future of Privacy Forum release a simple and concise primer that explains how the Bluetooth devices work and how privacy friendly controls ensure user control.

As competition for fickle and frugal holiday shoppers kicks into high gear, traditional retailers are seeking new ways to bring consumers into stores and provide them with improved shopping experiences. Leveraging near ubiquitous smartphone adoption, Bluetooth beacons have emerged as one of the more popular tools in this quest.

While beacons have many non-commercial uses, the US retail industry is where much of the early beacon adoption has come. And though they’re just one of several indoor location technologies, beacons have emerged as the leader because of their low cost and relatively simple deployment.

“Indoor location and beacons have a very broad array of potential applications,” said Greg Sterling, VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association (LSA). “Through mobile apps, they can help deliver content, promotions or enhanced information in real-world contexts such as stores, airports and hotels.”

The novelty and excitement surrounding beacon technology has generated considerable media attention. Yet beacons are generally not well understood. The LSA and Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) created “Understanding Beacons: A Guide to Bluetooth Technologies” to address some of this confusion and the many misperceptions about how beacons operate.

“Beacons are a privacy friendly technology because apps that interact with beacons are controlled by users,” explained FPF Executive Director Jules Polonetsky. “The settings on leading mobile operating systems ensure that users opt-in before beacons can be used and before users can be contacted.”

The six-page guide straightforwardly explains how beacons work and provides examples of current use cases in the market. It also clarifies and dispels common misunderstandings about beacons and consumer privacy.

Understanding Beacons explores the following questions:

  • What Is Bluetooth?
  • What Is “Bluetooth Low Energy”?
  • What Are Beacons?
  • What Is Apple iBeacon?
  • Why Are Beacons Popular?
  • Do Beacons Capture User Data?
  • Can Beacons Track People?

For those unfamiliar with beacons, their capabilities and technical limitations, Understanding Beacons will provide a very useful overview and introduction. The document is free and available here.

Download: “Understanding Beacons: A Guide to Bluetooth Technologies”