London buses trial beacon technology for smartphone advertising

500 buses in the capital have been equipped with Bluetooth Low Energy devices

Passengers on London buses will soon be able to receive targeted advertisements on their smartphones with the trial of beacon technology.

The pilot scheme - which will initially be available on 500 buses - is the result of a partnership between proximity marketing firm Proxama and outdoor advertising business Exterion Media. It follows a six month trial on 110 buses in Norwich conducted by the two firms.

Using Bluetooth Low Energy technology provided by Proxama, retailers in local areas will be able to send in-app messages directly to passengers. In return for being served with ads, the service could mean commuters being offered deals from retailers.

According to Proxama, targeting consumers outside of the home is an effective way of attracting business, as it is more likely to prompt 'immediate action' from potential customers.

It said that the Norwich bus trial highlighted the possibilities of the technology, with 30 percent of users click through from receipt of notification, and 2,000 app downloads.

"The trial in Norwich and our partnership with Exterion Media showed us that consumers are open to receiving content via their mobile devices while they travel, so we expect to experience a similar level of success once we roll out across London," Jon Worley, CEO of Proxama Marketing Division. "By ensuring that content pushed to users is relevant, personal and received at the right time, beacons are set to enhance Londoners' commuting experiences."

Despite a slow start, beacon technology is gradually gaining wider acceptance in the UK for a variety of use cases. A trial is currently underway at London's Pimlico Underground station to assist blind and partially sighted people to navigate independently, while Barclays is experimenting with the technology in branches to improve accessibility for customers with disabilities.

Meanwhile retailers such as House of Fraser, Hawes & Curtis and Bentall have installed devices in mannequins to send information about clothes on display to shoppers, while Urban Outfitters and US retail giant Walmart are also among those backing the use of beacon technology.

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