Being in the heart of Silicon Valley, the brand new Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara promised a slew of high-tech features when it opened earlier this year. While slow Wi-Fi and lengthy wait times for the in-seat ordering system initially frustrated some game-day fans, one of the stadium's bigger features has mostly gone unnoticed. As TechCrunch reports today, part of the in-house wireless network at Levi's Stadium is an "indoor positioning system" of Bluetooth beacons meant to help fans navigate the stadium, even when service is poor or bogged down.
The beacons blanket the stadium in short-range Bluetooth signals. When you open the stadium app on your phone, the app looks for nearby beacons (they each have a range of about 75 feet) around you and figures out where you are. From there it can either steer you towards another $10 plastic cup of domestic beer or just help you find the nearest restroom after you've already had too many. They can also offer location-based updates as you move around the stadium. From TechCrunch:
However, beacons can also trigger specific content or experiences on the user's device too. For example, when you walk in to one beacon's zone, you might receive one kind of push message. If you walk into another zone, you might receive a different message. This differing content can be specific to each beacon's individual location, enabling custom content in different areas of the building you are in.
Similar apps are also being rolled out to retailers who wish to track shoppers in their brick and mortar stores; the Tribeca Film Festival also used a beacon system to offer location alerts this year. So far, it's been hard to gauge whether any of these services are actually useful, or if this is just the first step towards a Minority Report nightmare future.
Aruba Networks—the company behind the beacon network at Levi's Stadium—claims this setup is more privacy-friendly than a traditional Wi-Fi network since you have to opt-in by downloading the app. The beacons also aren't actively searching for nearby devices. Instead, your phone is looking for the beacons. On the other hand, last month, Buzzfeed revealed hundreds of beacons were installed in New York City phone booths through an outdoor advertising company.