“Any time you can aggregate an audience with a common place and purpose – whether it is a concert or a museum or a church service – you have the ability to deliver the most beneficial information right there and then,” said George Henny, Co-Founder of Artifact Technologies. Many will recognize Henny from his leadership roles with independent telecom provider Whidbey Telecom and independent data center, FiberCloud (recently purchased by Greenhouse Data Center). His latest venture, Artifact Technologies, mixes an app, Mixby, with so-called beacon devices.
Beacons are Bluetooth low energy (BLE) devices that provide context to nearby Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as smartphones, tablets and wearables. As Henny points out in the above interview, this means that a dumb object can now direct smart devices to information that is relevant to a particular place and time. For instance, yesterday’s Wall Street Journal referenced an airport that will be deploying multiple beacons to provide location information via audible pointers to site-impaired people.
Further evidence that this technology is going mainstream is this week’s announcement from Google about its new and open format for BLE beacons: Eddystone, which allows:
- developers to easily add beacon information into their apps,
- beacon hardware manufacturers to support multiple software platforms on the same device,
- businesses to manage a “fleet” of beacons (being able to identify when a battery fails, for instance)
- and consumers to receive the right information at the right time and the right place
To this last point about consumers receiving the right information at the right time, Google points to Portland where, since early this year, people are receiving real-time transit updates automatically through Google Maps via beacons.
In the above interview, Henny cites an example of how his company has created a virtual community bulletin board using beacons and the Mixby app at Whidbey Telecom’s coffee shop (a cool story in of itself). Henny sees an opportunity for other independent operators to help other local businesses and community organizations use the Mixby app and associated beacons to create ad-hoc social networks centered around a location or activity; these are fleeting and dynamic social networks, but ones that are extremely relevant and valuable.