EventTech 411: The Scoop On BLE - Event Marketer

Bluetooth Low Energy

EventTech 411: The Scoop On BLE

Your Two-Minute Tutorial on The Latest Event Technologies

What it is: BLE stands for Bluetooth Low Energy. In short, BLE is a wireless technology akin to Bluetooth, with one important difference: it’s passive. So there’s no work required for attendees to engage with it. Like regular Bluetooth, it’s an owned and licensed technology, but have no fear, it’s already integrated into almost every mobile device out there. The power of BLE is that it takes the best features of NFC and RFID and brings them together to make live interactions work without annoying or creeping out consumers.

How it works: BLE beats out NFC, for a few reasons. NFC works wirelessly by transmitting a low energy signal to a receiver, which is also true of BLE. However NFC only works over very short distances, frequently having to touch the receiver for response. BLE, on the other hand, works in the opposite direction, receiving information passively from a transmitter, and at the same range as regular Bluetooth, or about 25 feet from the transmitter. You can imagine how much more useful this would be for integration with geofencing and activity tracking tactics, not to mention the ability to push content, messaging and calls to action to key consumers wirelessly, when they reach key activation areas.

While RFID is widely touted as the best way to track attendee activity and engagement on the ground at an event, it has a few downsides. By issuing each guest with an RFID-chipped badge or bracelet, and enticing them to swipe those things at each activation with which they’d like to engage, brands can get a sense of what their consumers liked or didn’t like about events. Unfortunately, this process can seem cumbersome and difficult to consumers, so they might not bother to register the device or swipe it when directed. BLE requires no extra devices beyond the attendees’ own mobile phones and they opt-in by downloading your event app. (You have an event app, right?) Once linked up with the built-in BLE tech in attendees’ phones, brands can track activity with beacons and gates, activate experiences automatically through proximity and disseminate content at relevant moments as prompted by attendee position.

Most important to note, however, is that, unlike either of the other options, BLE is largely invisible. The interactions happen automatically, like magic, with no immediate need for prompting by the attendee, so the wow factor is a real effect. Which it should be with technology.

Another key factor is that, because it’s low emission, it uses very little power, so battery life and connection speeds aren’t adversely affected, which would of course annoy the users. In terms of hard tech specs, BLE operates in the same spectrum as classic Bluetooth technology, the 2.400 GHz-2.4835 GHz ISM band, but uses a different set of channels. The maximum bit rate for data transfer is 1 Mbit per second and the maximum transfer power is 10mW, thus the low energy.

As you can see, there are many potential experiential applications for BLE, and it bears further study. Look into this stuff, folks, because it can change the way you do events, and collect attendee data, in a big way.


Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Hardware:
This story appeared in the Feb/March 2015 issue

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