That’s where a Smart Location comes in.
To compete effectively in the future, owners of physical locations must be thinking about how to use technology to create unique experiences for customers. This digital connection via customers’ own devices is essential and will be a primary way to differentiate from other “bricks and mortar” experiences but also connect customers to the digital world.
SOLOMO has extensively tested sensors for performance validity in the following categories: WiFi, RFID, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), NFC, and more. Through our lab, as well as the real world experiences of our customers, we have learned a lot about various devices. Here are some of the conclusions we’ve arrived at with regards to WiFi and BLE technology, the two most widely adopted “next generation” in-location sensors.
When evaluating technologies to produce data for indoor analytics WiFi-based sensors come out on top. By configuring WiFi access points or sensors in a staggered configuration, in a density optimized for location services, powerful insights are possible.
This technology works by listening for the WiFi probes sent by devices seeking to pair with a WiFi network. The relative strength of these probes detected by WiFi sensors can be used to determine precise location information by trilateralating the various signal strength readings. This precise location data can then be used to generate a very sophisticated set of indoor analytics (SOLOMO makes these available via a web based portal and also via data export to support secondary analysis.). At SOLOMO we call this “Location” data.
Alternatively, WiFi sensors can be used in a more basic manner often referred to as “Presence” data. Rather than determining the precise location of each device, WiFi presence analytics are able to produce general, non-precise data sets based on whether a device is present inside of a particular WiFi network. Report examples include unique visitor counts, repeat visitor rations, and the like. Presence analytics can be more cost effective when only basic analytics are needed.
Regardless of whether the WiFi sensors are being used for Location or Presence, every consumer device that enters the location has different characteristics with respect to how frequently, and how strongly, a WiFi probe is sent. This produces some interesting challenges when it comes to measuring precision, producing analytics, and driving use cases. WiFi analytics providers often claim that they can accurately locate a consumer device within 2-3 meters, and that they can then accurately track that device as it moves around a location. Let’s take a closer look.
"Generally, WiFi vendor claims of '2-3 meter accuracy' are achievable."
Generally, SOLOMO has been able to verify this level of accuracy with our own SOLOMO Beacon WiFi sensor, as well as the WiFi access points of a leading network equipment vendor. The SOLOMO Beacon WiFi is a great technology to extend an existing WiFi network to enable Location intelligence.
"Different mobile operating systems and different devices vary greatly in their rate of WiFi pings, making WiFi a better choice for aggregate analytics than for real time engagement."
However, for diagnostic location intelligence where real time processing isn’t essential, the accuracy of path tracking is quite high and very useful for path analysis and region-to-region flow analysis, two capabilities of the SOLOMO Exchange analytics portal.
This technology is the one that Apple’s iBeacon standard is relying on. This technology is now widely available in recent iOS (iPhone 4s and newer) and Android devices (v4.3 and newer) and has generated a lot of buzz, particularly with the appearance of iBeacon.
To create a unique engagement point the technology relies on each customer’s mobile phone to receive a transmission from a BLE emitter - often called a “Beacon” – that simply emits a unique identification number at regular intervals. The phone can receive that unique ID, and using a mobile app installed on the phone, can send that ID over the internet. SOLOMO matches that ID to a piece of content or special offer pre-programmed by our client and then trigger that experience in the application. In this way the customer receives a contextual experience that depends on their precise physical location.
There are many manufactures of BLE Beacons and SOLOMO has researched them extensively. Each offers different claims regarding battery life, accuracy and other characteristics. Here’s what we’ve learned.
"Battery life is generally much less than advertised except in special circumstances."
"After 1000s of iterations, BLE testing tells us that the most reliable engagement occurs at the 'immediate' zone or 'far' zone."
For operational rollouts of Smart Location technology we highly recommend working with an experienced Smart Location company. SOLOMO offers its expertise to help configure the right in-location infrastructure for your location, and then connects your location to its SOLOMO Exchange platform for in-location analytics and consumer engagement.