SKT taking role in Bluetooth beacon market

Emeka Obiodu/Ovum
17 Jan 2014

While Apple’s iBeacon and Qualcomm’s Gimbal beacons are dominating the news on Bluetooth low energy (BLE) solutions, SK Telecom has demonstrated that a telco can use existing infrastructure in a given market to launch beacon-related services.

BLE beacons are small, low-power Bluetooth transmitters that repeatedly broadcast their presence to other nearby Bluetooth devices. As such, they are suited to organizations that want to track customer movements in a venue, or broadcast targeted messages to customers in a particular location.

SK Telecom’s Bluetooth beacon has been in use at the Seoul National University Bundang Hospital since February 2013 and provides hospital navigation and patient guide services. In an emerging field that is going to be largely shaped by non-telcos, SK Telecom’s involvement shows how telcos can bundle BLE-related solutions as part of their proposition to corporate clients.

SK Telecom’s solution provides proof of concept for telcos

The commercial rollout of SK Telecom’s Bluetooth beacon product is a milestone for telco-led BLE beacon services. BLE is one of several low-energy, short-range radio technologies. It is based on an open standard and comprises the transmitting beacons and a suitable receiver with the right software. SK Telecom has invested in Dio Interactive, a Korean beacon start-up, for the development of transmitting beacons. It has also developed the smartphone app that converts iOS and Android apps into receiving points. Devices with a Bluetooth capability and running on Apple’s iOS 7 or Android 4.3 can pick up signals from beacons and interact with any third-party app on the device.

While SK Telecom’s value proposition and product specification follow those for all such services, the telco’s unique selling point is its installed infrastructure and relationship with enterprise customers. SK Telecom claims that the Seoul National University Bundang Hospital is the first hospital to use Bluetooth beacon services in the world and is using the beacons to provide round-the-clock information and navigation guides to the hospital’s 6,000 daily patient visitors.

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