Infrared has one set of problems: it requires line-of-site, and even users that have it don’t necessarily know they have it, wouldn’t know how to turn it on, or would get bored before they’d manage to turn it on and wait to receive an advertising link to a wap site they have to download.
Bluetooth is newer, sexier, quite widely supported now, and highly unreliable (in my experience) with all the UI issues of IR. No user who values their battery life would sensibly leave Bluetooth on the whole time, unless they didn’t know they had it or they were using their headset. It avoids the line of site issues that make IR unattractive, but this introduces a more serious problem – the Bluetooth box effectively becomes a Bluetooth spam device because you can’t control who gets the advertising being pushing out. The passers-by who pick up this spam will either be those who don’t understand Bluetooth – “Help, how did Ann Summers get on my phone! That’s not my bag baby, honest” – or the people with headsets, who will get instant beeps telling them to check their phone… for spam. This might have legal implications, but it will certainly annoy the hell out of the alleged 85% of passers by who resent being spammed – with branded location-specific spam so they know who to blame. Nice.
They’ll apparently be receiving anything from a link (ooh, compelling) through ringtones and wallpapers to a game. Presumably the tag can do handset sniffing to deliver appropriate content (if it can’t it’s really a waste of space), so for brands which can really benefit from this type of content its got some potential value. When considering the value of links to content on the network it’s also worth remembering how great the user experience is when struggling with network settings.
However, all the VC capital is not lost – Hypertag have a solution to keep them out of court. They will make users change their Bluetooth IDs to include a special unique Hypertag code, which acts as an opt-in: a wireless signal saying “Hi marketers, do your worst” whenever you walk down your high street. Who will do this? Let’s consider the potential market segments:
1) Bluetooth users – experienced users will have to change their Bluetooth IDs and probably re-pair all their devices so that they can receive advertising messages. That’s a wonderful added incentive to make sure they don’t.
2) Inexperienced users – don’t know they have Bluetooth. Wouldn’t know a Bluetooth ID if it jumped out of the Hypertag box and slapped them on the face, but might have a quick go at changing the config. Given the plethora of phones out there this is destined to failure even with the best instructions, potentially causing annoyance.
3) The rest – users who know what Bluetooth is, but don’t use it much. They’ll have it turned off, but if they see the advert they might have a go at changing their ID because this won’t impact the rest of their lives, and because they know a bit more they might even succeed.
So we probably have a target market of people who are kind of curious. Will that curiosity dwindle after the first few messages? The first dozen? Hundred? What is the cost of acquisition to the people running the campaign? I seem to remember hearing these devices were really not cheap to rent, though that might have been a competitor's product.
This leaves Hypertag with a system which will be used by at most 15% of the population who might like indiscriminate alerts popping up on their handsets; a large percentage of these strange people will fail to get the system to work, and only the really persevering masochists will actually be able to download very interesting content. Hmm, maybe Ann Summers (NSFW) should look into it after all, could credibly target a nice niche market for them...