Last week Facebook announced that they will begin to experiment with Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons to enhance user's interactions with the places around them. Your first question may be "What are beacons and why does that matter to me". Let me explain.
What are "Beacons"
Beacons are Bluetooth Low Energy devices similar to TrackR devices in functionality and size, however they are used to help locate where the user is. You can put these beacons around a Home Depot for example and the devices can help guide you to where the hammers are (I've spent days looking around Home Depot for a simple hammer. Yes, it is embarrassing)
Why does facebook want to have anything to do with Beacons
Many of the businesses that are on facebook are the small businesses around your community that make your community unique and individual. By providing this beacon technology to small businesses, facebook can enable these bakeries, resturaunts, and other places to better interact with their customers on their facebook page. Small businesses can know who is in their store and offer them a specialized online/physical interaction that is truly one of a kind. In time, this can also enable businesses to push local deals but more importantly, understand how online ad spend results in offline conversions.
Online ads to offline conversions?
Yep. This is some magic that has the potential to make facebook billions. Many resturaunts, bars, gyms, and other local haunts do their fair amount of advertising however they are unable to grasp which ads actually resulted in the most new customers. By integrating beacons with facebook, a small businees can understand this mystery a whole lot better. Imagine that a business has a beacon at the front of the store and at the cash register. The beacon at the front of the store can report when a person who saw a facebook ad actually visited the store. The beacon at the cash register can be used to report who actually purchased an item (or at least made it to the cash register). This can give small business the same tools that the targets, walmarts, and other large retailers use to judge the effectiveness of their ad spends.
This all sounds kinda creepy
It is. But it's already happening online. Whether this interaction is just too much will be determined as facebook continues the beacon rollout later this year. The big winners are yet to be determined as well but estimote is certainly well positioned to be a leader in this space but they may be going head to head against the facebook machine.