By dematerialising the sensors in beacons, SmartFocus is looking to help stores avoid all installation and maintenance issues.

SmartFocus dematerialises in-store beacon systems

At a time when French people still seem disinclined to use their mobile phones in-store, beacon-based solutions would seem a good alternative way for a customer to be able to use his/her smartphone as part of the in-store experience. One example is the Physical Cookie, on which l'Atelier has previously reported, which is designed to fully personalises a shopper’s experience. So far however, all the beacon solutions on offer require time and effort to install the sensors and other equipment in the store.

Now however New York-based SmartFocus has launched its Message Cloud platform. All the customer needs to do is download the store’s app and then Message Cloud enables the store to look at its customer data in order to get to know the customer better, and to combine this information with the data acquired from virtual beacons‟The virtual beacon enables us to capture information on people’s movements and their location, which means we can send them relevant messages depending on where they currently happen to be,” explains SmartFocus Deputy General Manager for France Fabien Roger, The system works in a similar way to physical beacons, but avoiding many of their limitations. ‟The problem with physical beacons is that they need maintenance and staff and they also cover too small an area,” points out Fabien Roger, adding: “The whole issue is to be able to geolocate a phone indoors. And our technology does that using the earth’s magnetic field, based on the compass integrated into all smartphones.” This is how the system locates individual smartphone owners. The basic information is then linked ‟to information on where they are currently moving around, which is captured by using the smartphone’s accelerometer, which records the direction the person takes”.

This information is essential. Once it has been uploaded into the Message Cloud platform, it provides the store with virtual zone maps informing staff of where potential customers are. This triggers a process similar to that of physical beacons. A push message – sent by the store’s app which has already been downloaded by the customer – is generated as soon as s/he enters a given virtual zone at the store. ‟As soon as a customer’s smartphone enters one of these zones, a message is generated,” explains Roger.

Using this new customer geolocation system a store can dispense with all the installation, maintenance, and zone coverage costs.  Message Cloud is currently undergoing pilot testing with a number of SmartFocus customers. The next step will be to launch this month a ‘smart store’ in Paris designed to demonstrate just how effective the solution is.

By Anthéa Delpuech