Facebook will begin testing a new service that uses mobile beacons to push information about businesses and attractions to Facebook users in the area, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news. The Bluetooth beacons are just one way the company will reach mobile users with content drawn from the Facebook profiles of local businesses and landmarks; the service will also determine users’ locations through GPS signals, cell phone towers, and WiFi connections.
The WSJ reports that Facebook plans to install the Bluetooth beacons for the new service, called “Place Tips,” at a number of popular New York City businesses and attractions, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dominique Ansel Bakery, the original home of the “cronut,” and the iconic Strand Book Store. It will use the other technologies listed above to detect users at landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and Times Square, whose size makes Bluetooth impractical.
When a Facebook user’s mobile device is detected in a given area, information from the business or landmark’s Facebook profile will automatically appear above the user’s Facebook newsfeed. They’ll also be able to see photos and posts from their friends about that location.
Facebook said users will only receive content from Place Tips if they have allowed Facebook to track their location, and they will be able to turn off the local information service if they so choose, or just hid content from particular places; Facebook also promised not to store any information about users’ locations.
The beacons have a number of potential applications for businesses, for example as a channel to entice customers with special offers, discounts, and so on. They could also help measure the impact of advertising more precisely, by linking ads delivered on Facebook to actual visits to retailers.