Beacon Security – Why It Matters
We recently announced support for Eddystone-EID (Ephemeral ID), which provides beacon owners with a secure option for transmitting beacon signals and provides control for which applications are able to access their beacons. Google’s release of Eddystone-EID underpins the need for secure options when deploying beacons in high value locations. Similarly, Gimbal has seen security as a core component of beacon technology and has offered secure-mode functionality in our beacons since we commercially launched them in market in 2013. Gimbal beacons have always included a 128 bit AES encryption key and a continuous random ID scheme to enable beacon owners to have “digital ownership” of their assets and locations. We believe security is fundamental to offering an enterprise grade solution. Let me highlight some key examples as to why security should be top of mind for leading enterprises looking to utilize this promising technology.
Today, there are companies out there who are “war driving” physical locations and mapping out radio signals for finer-grade geolocation targeting. This has already been broadly done with Wi-Fi access point signals and cell towers, but now companies are trying to do the same by mapping out beacon signals and locations, which allows for a much more granular view.
Retailers have been early adopters of beacon technology. Business Intelligence estimates that 85% of the top 100 U.S. retailers will have tested or deployed beacons throughout their stores by 2016. This transformation occurring in retail is sparked by changing consumer habits. Particularly how shoppers now consult their smartphones for product info, ratings, price comparisons and more. On a high level, beacons offer a huge advantage to combat showrooming by proactively sending location-triggered information at the right time and place, thus eliminating the need for customers to look elsewhere for it. However, without necessary security features, third party apps can solicit a customer looking at a Samsung Smart TV in a retailers store, and instead lure them away with a cheaper, better offer.
Now in some cases the retailer may want a third party app such as RetailMeNot or Shazam to engage their customers in the store with location-triggered content in an effort to leverage massive audience size of these mobile apps. However, it is important for the retailer to have an easy way to control which beacons can be accessed by those apps and for what duration.
Sports and entertainment venues were also early to leverage beacons to enhance the fan’s in-venue experience with better location & proximity targeted messages and content. These venues are high value locations, which command premium rates from brands who are looking to sponsor and be associated with a team, league or venue. Venue owners are missing out on incremental revenue dollars if they deploy non-secure beacons that can be accessed by any application or advertiser. This not only runs the risk that fans will be receiving messages and brand offers from apps that aren’t compensating the venue owner or team, but that fans may be receiving illicit offers and content from businesses nearby. Or simply, all of these messages may inundate the attendee’s phone with too many irrelevant offers, causing discontentment.
Outdoor Advertising companies have also been early to embrace the beacon ecosystem as this provides them with the ability to bridge the physical and digital world while providing new ways to engage consumers with content and offers. Outdoor Advertising assets are typically deployed in high value locations and when paired with consumer lifestyle apps it provides a compelling new engagement tool for helping brands reach their target audiences and drive higher conversions, such as driving people into nearby retail locations. These Outdoor Advertising companies have invested millions of dollars to secure these locations. Therefore, they need to be in control of determining which mobile applications are able to access their beacons and the flight time for when those apps will be engaging consumers. Deploying a non-secure beacon on these assets opens up for any mobile app to leverage for advertising or engaging users, while not compensating the beacon owner for providing such access.
There are many more scenarios that play-out with similar conclusions as to why secure access for beacons should be a priority for enterprises interested in the solution. Beacon use has proliferated across a broad range of verticals beyond the examples above and also include financial services, hospitality, industrial, smart city and many more. All of these verticals will face similar challenges on deciding whether to leave their beacon networks open or secure, however opting for a secure beacon ultimately allows for a more curated, controlled mobile experience for your customers. Regardless of the choice, Gimbal is ready to service customers with our industry leading location solution, including secure beacons.