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Modern Retail Counter Measures

Let me start by reminding you guys that I'm an Android user and I like to try new features even if the use cases aren't well established. As a result of my interest in somewhat experimental features in Android (and other Google apps), I have the Google Nearby feature enabled.

Google Nearby allows devices such as localized beacons to post notifications over 2.4ghz Bluetooth to my phone. Right now the use cases associated with Google's Nearby feature seem really basic and almost exclusive to the retail environment.

Recently, I went into my local Starbucks and started getting Google Nearby notifications. These notifications were actually ads for a beacon service that you could buy and install in your retail store. Below is a screenshot of the ad I received in Starbucks.


To me this is a very weak way to use the Google Nearby feature. In fact, I almost disabled Nearby because this ad is just awful. Not only is the content spammy and not relevant to me, it also disturbed my otherwise consistently good in-store Starbucks experience.

Was this beacon actually in the Starbucks without their knowledge or was it in another store? I launched my beacon scanner trying to locate the proximity beacon in the Starbucks. Turns out, I was getting a RSSI of -102 - -92 in the Starbucks. I went next door to the Cold Stone and was getting a higher RSSI around -88. Next to the Cold Stone is a Sprint franchise store. In there, I was getting -72 which meant I was close to finding the beacon, but I had more important things to do this day than look for a beacon. 

What's interesting is that this marketing-focused beacon was possibly installed in a store that basically allowed the advertiser to reach into five physical stores without their knowledge. In addition, the other retailers probably can do nothing about the marketing beacon.

This entire experience interruption and my unsuccessful hunt for this beacon revealed an opportunity for some-kind of beacon disruption kit. If disrupting unwanted beacon advertisement is even possible and allowed by the FCC it seems like only a matter of time until they are a necessity.

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