Brave New Beacons | Whitespace Bangkok

Brave New Beacons

Imagine walking around your local supermarket, strolling past the frozen meats section and then receiving a message on your phone, offering you a coupon to get 10% off your next purchase on steak. Sounds amazing right?! Who wouldn’t want to receive free coupons? But wait a minute…how on earth did they know? Is somebody stalking you? Technically…yes!

Retail stores are now using small Bluetooth devices called beacons, which are designed to track your every move when walking through their store. The main purpose of this is to “improve the customer experience.” However, we all know that it’s an incredibly clever, yet irrefutably dubious scheme to push shoppers into making impulse purchases when being offered last-minute or “one-off” discounts.

Yes, there are some great benefits to this technology. But we can’t help getting the feeling that it’s a little bit creepy. Of course, one could argue that it’s an invasion of your privacy. However, it can only really work if you allow it. For example, you’d have to sign up to a certain app, or allow your mobile phone to be tracked via Bluetooth. So, technically speaking, it’s not an invasion of your privacy, as you can simply turn it off. That said, these tech companies are very, very good at getting our data and using it for things that we’re not entirely aware of. So, in some ways, it almost certainly is an invasion of our privacy. In any case, it just doesn’t feel quite right…

You can’t deny the benefits

All that being said, as creepy as it is, when you really stop to think about it, provided that you’re not overly impulsive, or have anything to hide (i.e., a shoplifting habit), then why would you not want to receive free coupons and offers? If you don’t want to buy something, you’re under no obligation to do so. But of course, if you’re doing your weekly shop any way, then what’s the harm in saving some money whilst you’re at it?

Then there are the safety implications involved as well. Provided that you’re not entirely fussed about your privacy, being tracked could certainly make people feel safer. For example, if a friend or family member were to have gone missing, these tracking software’s would be incredibly useful to the authorities when trying to track them down.


Opt out if you want to!

Understandably, there is an awful lot of people who are concerned or angered by these Bluetooth beacons. However, it is important to remember that you really do not need to participate at all! Simply put your phone on Airplane mode or turn off WiFi and Bluetooth when you’re out and about, doing your shopping. Or of course, if you’re really worried about your privacy, trade your smart phone in for a standard flip-phone and be done with it!

The fact that we have the capacity to opt out, gives us very little room to complain about it. Yes, it’s a little bit creepy. But when you think about it, there are worse stalkers to be had! At least your local supermarket isn’t going to follow you home. Instead they’re harmlessly offering you a two-for-one on microwave meals. We can either embrace it or turn our phone’s off!