Facebook is Giving Businesses Free Location Beacons

By James O Malley on at

Facebook is dishing out free beacons to businesses in New York, which they believe could change the way we shop.

The location beacons – which currently only work with iPhone, though an Android version is in development – give shops and other businesses data when customers are nearby, meaning their exact location in a shop could be determined.

Called "Place Tips", the idea is that more relevant information could be delivered to your phone when you need it. For example, you could have a GPS-type map of the inside of a supermarket so you can figure out where the frozen food aisle is, or the beacons may detect that you are close to something on special offer, and will let you know about it.

The example Facebook gives is that when you're at a registered place a 'card' for that location will appear at the top of your news feed; that will then show you which of your friends have also been there, and the photos they took while there – as well as details of upcoming events at the place and more. The technology has been built into iPhones for some time, but is yet to be used on a wide scale.

The trial has so far been fairly small, apparently involving around 100 businesses in New York. It'll be interesting to see if privacy concerns are raised when they are adopted more widely, though Facebook also points out that you can switch it off in settings if it is just that little bit too scary. [BBC]