4 Reasons to be Wary of Beacons

Beacon technology is being introduced across the retail industry, but a study by Mobiquity reports gaps in monitoring, authentication and authorization in current deployments that could hinder the safety and effectiveness of the devices.
In the retail environment beacons allow for communication between retailers and shoppers in-store on a customer's mobile device via Bluetooth transmission. When an opted-in shopper comes within range of a beacon, messages and promotions can be pushed to a customer's smart device and location-specific marketing can be viewed.

Mobiquity Labs' "Micro-Locationing Project" reports that there are currently no processes in place to monitor beacons, making it difficult to measure effectiveness. Not only does this impact the value of the marketing program, but it could lead to significant security risks.

"While beacon technology is incredibly easy to use and deploy, we were shocked at the gap that exists around enterprise-class deployment," Mobiquity's chief technology officer Ty Rollin said. "With no consistent tracking and monitoring system, there is no stopping the movement of beacons from one location to another, and no way to track whether a beacon is truly effective."

Mobiquity Labs purchased beacon hardware from multiple vendors and built their own beacons, testing the technology in real-world scenarios, such as receiving welcome messages and awards at specific points of interest identified by multiple beacons. The mobile engagement provider's real-world study discovered four major concerns:
  1. Beacons are easy to clone. Copying a beacon's unique identifier can easily be accomplished and placed onto new equipment. Unprotected systems can fall victim to crowd steering and other spoofing attacks.
  2. Distance is difficult to determine. Beacons are inaccurate at close distances. When put closer than 12 feet together — a real possibility in a retail setting — they interfered with each other.
  3. Technology is ahead of services needed to manage it. Very few managed service providers are offering services to set up beacons, resulting in a lack of consistent monitoring, measurement and management.
  4. Spamming. Once there is wide adoption of beacon technology, consumers will experience a barrage of signals, similar to spamming, likely making it difficult to understand the content being shared.
For related content:
Shoppers Give Apple's iBeacon High Marks
Apple Stores Debut In-Store Tracking
Macy’s Adds Location Awareness in Two Flagship Stores
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