49ers Use Beacons to Help Fans Find Beer

Positioning system points to other uses

It’s crunch time: you’ve got precious minutes before the game resumes to find the closest restroom and premium beer stand. How do you avoid making a wrong turn and wasting time on the hunt?

Visitors to Levi Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, can now install a nifty app developed by enterprise wi-fi provider Aruba Networks that enables a range of location-based services such as locating concessions, restrooms, and seats.

Jay Donovan reports on TechCrunch that Aruba Network’s system, one of the largest indoor installations ever, points to a future where indoor positioning services are as common as GPS navigation. He notes Aruba’s intention to enable location-aware push messages in order to create a “richer experence” for users (or at least for the technology and content providers).

The beacons — small, battery-powered Bluetooth devices — are deployed all over the stadium. They communicate with an array of Aruba Wi-Fi nodes, which can cover a greater area. The Wi-Fi nodes then relay the beacon data back to a software controller that works for the entire stadium. A user with the app installed on their smartphone can communicate with the beacons to determine their location — and find out where things are.

Retailers are excited about the technology, Donovan writes, because it offers the ability to push messaging specific to each beacon’s individual location — and represents a potential game-changer for the brick-and-mortar shopping experience, which has suffered from the rise of online shopping.