Kansas City, Missouri-based company EB Systems uses beacons to track foot traffic via bluetooth. Founders have plans to send messages from businesses when users are nearby.
By: Charlie Keegan
May 12, 2023
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When tourists visit Kansas City, Missouri, for the World Cup in 2026 at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, Jon Ruiz, who co-founded a local tech business, hopes to interact with them through an artificial intelligence tour guide and apps based on Bluetooth technology.
Bluetooth is a way to wirelessly share data between smart devices like cellphones, headphones or computers, within a close range.
Ruiz co-founded EB Systems. Right now, the KC-based company uses Bluetooth beacons to track foot traffic. The beacons send and receive signals from cellphones to estimate how many people are in a space or visited a location.
Clients include the Downtown Kansas City, Missouri, Community Improvement District, the City Market and downtown Dallas. Several construction and agriculture companies also use the technology to track workers’ locations during evacuations due to severe weather.
During the NFL Draft in Kansas City during late April, many small businesses in areas outside the event footprint complained of slow sales.
At the same time, Ruiz was testing a solution.
The next phases of his company include sending ads or coupons to users who download and app and opt-in to the program. The app will send messages to users via Bluetooth as they pass EB Systems’ beacons.
“Since it’s Bluetooth, it can be very accurate,” Ruiz said. “We can trigger it as someone is walking past a specific storefront, a physical sign, or even when they step foot into a building or a room.”
The other phase is a virtual tour guide. For this, Ruiz gives users a badge. The badge interacts with the beacons to give tourists personalized advice.
“Let’s do the KC BBQ scavenger hunt, the KCK Taco Trail,” Ruiz listed possible suggestions from the tour guide. “We can really make it fun and engaging for people to leave the specific footprint of the event they’re here for and connect with the rest of the city.”
Ruiz envisions connecting his app to existing apps for tourism in the metropolitan area, or to an app specific for the World Cup, similar to how the NFL required draft visitors to download its specific event app.
Ruiz insists his technology cannot determine who a particular person is based on their Bluetooth interactions. Ruiz said his work will make it obvious for users to opt in. Previous beacon companies bury agreements in long term agreements.
“The climate has sort of shifted. We’re trying to put the power back into the hands of the user as to when and where they start receiving these types of communications,” Ruiz said.
A cyber security expert, Burton Kelso, suggests only using Bluetooth when necessary, like to use a speaker. Kelso said its best to keep the feature off. He said criminals use techniques like bluesnarfing and bluejacking to phish for information, or hack into your device.
“Any feature that’s on your smartphone, or even your computers, that can allow criminals to get in, you always want to make sure that you turn those features off in order to keep your data safe,” Kelso said.
He said there are several companies who use Bluetooth for legitimate, legal purposes. Because Bluetooth is based on your location, he said advertising messages you receive should correlate with businesses in your immediate location.
City Market is using EB Systems to track foot traffic and crowd flow. Having accurate numbers can help the public market attract vendors and sponsors.
“Knowing this kind of data really helps us enhance the market and make it more attractive and offer better amenities for the entire community,” said Sue Patterson, City Market’s director of marketing and communication. “Eventually, the market is interested in exploring ways to message people via Bluetooth with advertising.”
Source – https://www.kshb.com/news/local-news/tech-company-says-bluetooth-is-solution-to-driving-business-during-big-events