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What is Project Beacon? – Google’s mysterious gift

Have any of you received a mysterious package from Google courtesy of Project Beacon?

A small device which self activates as soon as you open the box, feels slightly disconcerting as the simple instructions indicate it is already broadcasting to local phone traffic in your area. It’s enough to make your head spiral: To what means and to whose benefit? Does it comply with the new GDPR regulations, where is this information stored or analysed? Can I opt out of it? How do I switch if off? So many questions and so little information, so we decided it was time to dig a little deeper.

Overview shot of what you receive in the package from Google's Project Beacon

What is Project Beacon?

Our technology has become so ingrained within our daily lives our mobile phones are more like appendages and Google knows it. You can’t deny it, throughout the day we will all find ourselves on it at some point, whether it is to search for something, read a review, get directions and so on.

Google have developed a seemingly innocuous battery powered device, Project Beacon that makes location-based searching and interaction a little easier and more accurate.

The small, thumb sized column emits one way signals that are readable by nearby Bluetooth low energy devices such as mobile phones and tablets. Allowing your phone to better identify its location and to send or receive information which currently takes the form of targeted advertising, confirming arrival at a particular location and engagement.

Image of stats being captured on a laptop and mobile phone

How will using Project Beacon benefit your business?

This device could enable businesses to track how many handsets visited their store. This will help your business show up on individual personal maps, help filter out inaccurate reviews for people who have not even visited your business, help identify popular times and typical visit durations for the business.

A simpler way to say it is that with a beacon, your phone will now know exactly where you are, as opposed to guessing where you are.

However, this is not the first or last beacon device out there, there is already the Amazon Beacon, the Apple iBeacon,  among others which are all doing similar things among varying levels. There are also companies like Estimote who develop apps to help you interpret the data you are gathering. Here are some case studies of how some organisations have been getting on with them such as the Guggenheim in New York and FC Barcelona.

Image of stats being captured on a tablet and mobile phone

How to avoid a beacon

If you would rather not be party to a big brother state of having your personal technology track your every move then you must look at your own device settings and opt out of the Location Services.

Technically the Beacon device cannot be switched off without being taken part. However, if you would like to opt out you can send it back to Google free of charge.

Banner image courtesy of Pexel, Computer images courtesy of Estimote.