The Future of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Technology

In my last blog about Near Field Communications (NFC) I mentioned that the industry is watching to see if Apple will throw its weight behind NFC or Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE) technology.

Bluetooth Smart, and iBeacon™ all refer to Bluetooth low energy wireless technology. It consumes only a fraction of the power of classic Bluetooth radios, expanding wireless to devices like watches, toys, gaming devices, and more. Plus, they could go as long as a year on one charge!

Of course, for event marketers, the goal is to increase engagement and drive ROI.  Sensor beacons, small BLE hardware devices, can send push notifications to mobile devices nearby. Using beacons, trade show marketers can push messaging directly to prospects. It can be utilized to attract attendees to your booth or to let them know about imminent events like a presentation or flash gathering.

How far in the future will event marketers be utilizing BLE? It’s happening now, and it’s being adopted by very high-profile events like Austin’s South By Southwest (SXSW).  In March, SXSW launched an iBeacon-powered app at their 2014 event. They placed beacons within select session venues. When attendees entered the venue, they received a prompt to “join the conversation” within the official SXSW GO iPhone app, where they could network with other attendees in their session and participate in a discussion forum and live audience polls. In some cases, the beacons even enabled quick access to an attendee's registration QuickCode.

This technology provided the ability to deliver iBeacon triggered push notifications to app users, containing highly relevant messages about the sessions the user attended and the places they visited.

“This year we focused on using beacons to deliver timely information and access to services, while keeping the number of beacon alerts to a minimum,” commented Scott Wilcox, SXSW technology director. “In the near future, we foresee beacons being used in conjunction with many of the technologies currently relied on by events - like QR Codes and RFID.”

I agree with Scott Wilcox that we will see BLE used more frequently with RFID in the future specifically related to retail and marketing events.  Will BLE overtake NFC?  Only time will tell.

For more info, read this interesting post on Mashable: iBeacon Comes to SXSW