Bluetooth Low Energy And The Future Of Travel

by | March 17, 2015

The way we travel has evolved dramatically alongside technological advancement. With technology, we are now able to get instant updates on flights statuses, know how to pack by checking the weather in our destination city, and book a hotel from anywhere in a matter of mere minutes. One of the newest technologies that will be changing how we travel, if not completely revolutionizing it, is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).

Exactly what BLE is and how it functions is somewhat complex, but Daniel Dilger breaks its history down in a recent article for appleinsider. In a nutshell, BLE is a type of Bluetooth that was developed to require less power to function. Low energy consumption makes it a good fit for mobile tech devices, including wearable devices like Apple’s new Apple Watch. In fact, it is through a combination of BLE and Wi-Fi that the Apple Watch will connect to a user’s iPhone.

Beyond simply requiring less energy to function, BLE has almost endless possible uses ranging from device connectivity to proximity sensing and being able to unlock your hotel room without use of a keycard. Its these new possible uses that are going to be changing the way we travel over the next few years.

Fine Tuning Navigation

Access to navigation tools like Google Maps has changed the way that many people navigate while driving, and soon we will see a change in how we navigate while on foot. Through the use of beacons, BLE enabled devices will be able to know precisely where you are located in real time. Beacons are devices that are installed throughout a location and interact with your mobile devices via BLE.

Stores and other locations, including airports and subways, will be able to leverage this ability to provide you exact directions on how to get where you want to go. For stores chains like Duane Reade, which has already begun to implement this technology using Apple’s iBeacon, this means that your mobile tech device will be able to give you directions to the exact item you are looking for. So, even if a store or location is completely new to you, you will be able to traverse it like you’ve been there countless times already.

Immediate Information

In addition to navigation, the interaction between your BLE enabled devices and beacons will provide you with a wealth of information without you even having to ask for it. Already heavy traffic locations like the LA Metro and the Miami International Airport are beginning to use this technology to send out updates and additional information to travelers as they pass by key locations, including the parking lots, terminals, and baggage claim. Travel, which is frequently a source of stress, will theoretically become less stressful since your phone or other mobile device will be able to keep you informed in real time.

Even Facebook has begun to test beacons and BLE in New York with plans to offer their Place Tips service in locations like Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, and various stores and restaurants. This service will allow Facebook users to see information like a location’s upcoming events, popular menu items, and posts that your friends have made related to that particular location.

Last week’s SXSW event also featured this functionality with the deployment of 1,000 beacons throughout the event’s venues using the iBeacon technology. The goal of using beacons at this event was to allow attendees to see who else was in attendance to inspire “more meaningful connections” as well as to provide information about the various events going on during the event.

Essentially, no longer will you have to search your phone’s web browser or read a guidebook to learn more about the places you visit while travelling. Your phone will interact with the beacons that have been installed around you to bring that information to you.

Walk-By Advertising

While some may be wary of a technology that is essentially always tracking you as long as it is on, a 2014 study indicated that 77% of respondents are “fine with sharing location data in exchange for something valuable like a mobile coupon or digital offer.” Stores will essentially be able to send you deals and discounts as you pass them by or while you shop, and the possibilities don’t end there.

AirService is an app developed by an Australian start-up that not only lets you browse menus and order and pay for food, it can also study your purchasing habits and send you information based on those habits. An example provided by the company’s co-founder, Dominic Bressan, is that the app would be able to know that you buy a latte every day at 9am near your office, so if you are travelling when you’d normally buy your morning latte, the app would send suggestions of local places where you can get your latte on the go.

As apps like these are developed and grow in popularity, you will soon be able travel without having to first look up the coffee shop that is nearest to your hotel. Your mobile device will instead offer not only suggestions on where you can go but also discounts on the things you consume regularly.

Cover photo via Flickr Creative Commons