Monday, September 15, 2014

Proximity Marketing: Opportunity for Rich-Attribute Conveyance

Real-time Location-based Services (RT-LBS or just RT-LS) is an important new concept in mobile marketing. These offerings are starting to tout the ability to deliver information and services based on the real-time location of a person. Some key examples are receiving a mobile phone-based notification of a restaurant offer while walking in a downtown area or a product coupon while shopping in a specific grocery aisle. (Although there would need to be a saturation algorithm adjustment as potential customers flock to a location.) As is true generally with the advent of newtech, there is a much richer level of attribute conveyance beyond that of economic incentive that could be demonstrated in new applications. For example, why not broadcast key real-time attributes that a user has affinity for beyond or in addition to price such as ambiance, noise level, wait time, including for example near real-time photos from the establishment. A time-to-be-seated comparison with map overlay app can be imagined, upleveling the concept from the harangue of groupon discounts.

For indoor locations where there is no line-of-sight to GPS, there are other solutions, and this is where imminent progress is being made. There are WiFi networks (where even having WiFi enabled is enough know that ‘you are here’ or at least that your phone is ‘here’), Bluetooth Low Energy (per most smartphones), and now iBeacon and similar technologies. iBeacon, etc. is essentially an RFID technology where there would be a beacon on each grocery store aisle that could track customers and deliver coupons or other notifications. However, Bluetooth would need to be enabled which most smartphone keep off. In all of the industry promoted excitement over proximity marketing with real-time couponing, one cannot help but notice that truly revolutionary progress, for example auto-checkout per item-level RFID tags or some other mechanism remains a hard, expensive, and unsolved problem. What about remote hover cam item selection and personalized drone delivery?

For outdoor retail locations, GPS is still a good solution as it can locate a person within a meter per satellite pings. GPS resolution is already available in centimeter resolution for professionals (at $1000 and reportedly now at $500). This cost/performance curve could continue to ratchet down and centimeter-level GPS resolution could harken exciting new classes of location-based technologies, for example medical applications that require sub-body level detail.

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