The Bluetooth devices known as “beacons” were installed in bus benches in Los Angeles and train stations in Chicago. Additional information obtained suggests that the devices were also installed in San Francisco, though BuzzFeed News was unable to independently confirm that allegation.
In Los Angeles, beacons have been installed in “less than 5%” of the city’s more than 5,000 bus benches, according to Randall Smith, CEO of Martin Outdoor Advertising. (Five percent of 5,000 would be 250 benches.) Martin announced the program publicly for the first time via press release after BuzzFeed News contacted the company regarding beacons.
Read: They were forced to admit they're profiting while illegally spying on citizens, can anyone say license plate readers, red-light camera etc.
Taken together, the programs reveal a broad initiative by Gimbal to quietly partner with outdoor advertising companies in major American cities. And they clarify the extent to which technology companies, cities, and brands have begun experimenting with new forms of commercial persuasion, with scant public notice.
Beacons emit simple, self-identifying signals. Although beacons do not collect any information themselves, they play a central role in Gimbal’s phone-tracking technology. Gimbal requires smartphone apps that use its software to get users’ “opt-in” permission before collecting data and sending beacon-triggered notifications. When a Gimbal-enabled, customer-approved app “sees” a Gimbal beacon, the phone sends information about the encounter — including the phone’s “unique identifier”, its location, and the time of day — to Gimbal’s servers.
The Tribeca Film Festival app used the phone booth beacons earlier this year to send festivalgoers notifications about nearby happenings. ShopAdvisor, a mobile shopping app, touted a “pilot program” collaboration with Qualcomm in Manhattan in a solicitation to brands: “There are 500 beacons outdoor beacons placed in Manhattan across all key shopping districts. The ShopAdvisor platform is integrated to work with these beacons.” And a promotional image now deleted from Gimbal’s website includes what appears to be heat map of beacon-phone interactions in a wide swath of Manhattan:
Not All Beacons Are Created Equal, "It Should Read, Not All Surveillance Beacons Are Created Equal":
"Gimbal has the world's largest deployment of industry-leading Bluetooth Smart beacons. Our engineers are consistently resetting the standards by which all other beacons are judged and we are currently deploying our fifth-generation beacon hardware.
- Bluetooth® Smart
- Configurable over the air
- Secure firmware upgradable over the air
- Different form factors for different use cases with battery life up to 3 years*
- Gimbal Manager is a state-of-the-art way of managing all beacons in your network, even beacons not purchased from Gimbal
Venues: Changing the Game:
Understanding each fan's specific interests and precise location within your venue allows you to more effectively engage with them while they are in your stadium, arena, concert venue or theater. Each fan should have a personalized mobile experience created just for them. Gimbal will allow you to:
- Send personalized greetings
- Direct them to the shortest lines
- Point out interesting facts or history
- Provide special access for sponsors
- Deliver games, contests or trivia to keep them engaged during the event
- Expand engagement with your app before and after the event
- Send geo-targeted and proximity notifications in real-time
Agencies & Advertisers: Break through the Mobile Clutter:
Mobile devices are increasingly proving to be the most effective and personalized marketing platform for driving sales. Gimbal can help you find new ways to leverage mobile's ability to:
- Deliver timely content based on "actual location," rather than "inferred location"
- Reduce "digital chatter" by filtering out spam, delivering content they care about when they want it
- Increase the impact of mobile advertising
- Provide new data points and tools for your analytics platform
- Turn traditional marketing assets into digital experiences
Developers: Revolutionize Your Mobile App:
Gimbal provides developers with a suite of tools including beacon hardware, a SDK, a manager portal as well as APIs for both iOS and Android to help you enhance your mobile applications. Gimbal proximity beacons communicate over Bluetooth Smart and are built and configured to Apple's iBeacon specifications so you can:
- Manage and connect beacons to your app
- Incorporate precise user location data and deliver proximity notifications
- Use our analytics to learn user trends and analyze foot traffic
- Incorporate and manage an unlimited number of geofences and beacons
- Enroll non-Gimbal beacons on the Gimbal Manager