Commentary

Samsung Goes Big on Beaconing, Challenges Apple; Questions Loom Large

Samsung says it is getting into beaconing in a big way.

The innovative concept behind Samsung’s announcement this week that it will be launching its own beacon approach called Proximity is that an app would not be required for a beacon to trigger messaging onto a Samsung phone.

“This is a big, huge move by Samsung,” said Scott Varland, creative director at the IPG Media Lab. “This has been one of the biggest pain points with people looking to do beacon work.”

I was at the lab in New York again yesterday for a wide-ranging discussion about the future of beaconing with Varland, the person leading the charge there to figure out the best user experience of beaconing.

The clear issue of the moment was the Samsung move and the beaconing market dynamics it could change, if it takes off.

“How do I get my app or someone else’s app to listen for these things so they can create experiences has been a big thorn for me this year,” said Varland.

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“Trying to hunt down a media owner that is willing to implement a beacon that has enough scale to reach enough consumers and then bring in the brand and negotiate,’” he said. “This has led to a very slow rollout of the types if experiences I’d like to see with beacons.

“Samsung has basically taken that out of the equation. With the new operating system on the Samsung phones, they’re going to be able to address any Samsung owner that has a Galaxy, or whatever, phone.”

But there are some serious questions and issues yet to be determined in all of this.

It is not yet clear from the Samsung announcement if, at least hypothetically, someone could walk into a store with a beacon in their pocket and trigger messages to Samsung phones in that store.

I would like to think that Samsung has considered this and other easy-to-dream-up nightmare beaconing scenarios as part of the deployment, but the information released so far does not clarify this.

“I’m excited about because it sounds like you can do deep links within the OS into your brand application, so you might have a relatively small footprint with your branded app but you can use the Samsung receiver to listen for those beacons and trigger things within your application or within someone else’s application," said Varland.

Samsung phones also can be turned into beacon broadcasting devices themselves, filling yet another bucket of issues.

“It seems like anyone with a beacon could send a message,” said Varland.  “Like all these things, it’s just a matter about getting your hands on it to see how it actually works.”

The Proximity platform announcement states: “Once the Proximity Service app is installed, dynamic and relevant information and coupons will be pushed to the user’s phone.” So there is the question of what role an app would play, other than linking into the Samsung platform, and the obvious issue of over-messaging, which all of the major companies using beacons have been navigating for some time.

“If there are five beacons competing for that user’s attention, how is that going to be mediated?” said Varland. “Those are big questions. Is Samsung going to have that role?”

And since the Samsung beaconing approach is for Samsung phones, and the iBeacon technology is for Apple devices, would a retailer face the improbability of having two separate sets of beacons installed at each location?

And what is the beaconing approach for a consumer using an Android phone not from Samsung?

There are many more questions, but you get the idea.

The distance between beaconing announcements and beaconing successes can be very large, indeed.

Closing the distance is where the value lies.

2 comments about "Samsung Goes Big on Beaconing, Challenges Apple; Questions Loom Large".
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  1. Richard Kalt from CRN International, Inc., November 17, 2014 at 10:17 a.m.

    This new development, or potential of a broad reaching expansion of beacon technology should be of great concern to marketers and retailers. While Millennials have pretty much accept that there is no privacy anymore, and of course, they feed in to that reality, when is enough...enough. At least by downloading an app you are giving permission to be approached but with the coming technology, it will be a beacon free for all. Each message uses data I presume, and myriad messages pinging you constantly just because you're walking around near beacons will ultimately distract the smartphone user from their initial objective. Sometimes that will work and sometimes not. We will be moving forcefully in to the 10 minute radio and TV spot break on your smartphone. And beacons originating on phones, how scary is that. What if somebody simply wants to abuse a large group within coverage of their own phone beacon with a bogus deal to screw a retailer? We are now seeing how a creative and interesting idea can be take to extremes, and ultimately to the detriment of the innocent marketer who has honest intent and in no way realizes what they're participating in now. You wait, a Beacon Czar is coming!

  2. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, November 17, 2014 at 10:51 a.m.

    Thank for all your thoughts on this, Richard. The issues you raise are well in the minds of the most significant players in the beacons arena. Beaconing is still very early and if consumers are over-messaged, they are likely to turn off Bluetooth, essentially making themselves beacon-invisible.

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