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Bloomberg Businessweek has a story about how dozens of supermarkets in Cleveland, Seattle and San Francisco are testing Apple's iBeacon technology, which "allows Apple to pinpoint the location of a smartphone user within a few feet by bouncing signals off of inexpensive sensors constantly on the lookout. Because the technology uses Bluetooth Low Energy to send and receive signals, it can do so in confined spaces like stores without draining phone batteries." This, the story says, "will allow companies to beam advertisements to people’s smartphones at the exact moment they’re standing in aisle six trying to decide which brand of beans to buy."

The story goes on to say that "people have pretty high hopes for the new Bluetooth standard and iBeacon, and similar capability was integrated into a recent version of Android’s operating system. While the applications stretch beyond retail, stores have been pretty quick on the draw. Last month, Apple began using iBeacons in its own retail locations, and Macy’s (M) is working with Shopkick (PDF), an app developer, on a pilot program running in its New York and San Francisco locations." And, a company called InMarket "says it will activate its own iBeacons in more than 100 Giant Eagle and Safeway stores in the next few weeks, a major test for the concept’s appeal beyond the world of early adopters."
KC's View:
I'm sure there will be privacy issues here, but ultimately I think people will be attracted to a concept that will make the store more relevant to their needs, not less so. And that really what this does.

I continue to firmly believe that in the long term, the retail winners will be the companies that accumulate germane consumer data, effectively analyze it, and then act on it in appropriate and relevant ways. If their use of the data appears to the consumer to be exploitive, that won't be a good thing. But if the message is that the retailer is serving as an agent for the consumer, on the consumer's side, then this technology will be welcomed.