PayPal Beacon Leverages BLE

Published on October 1, 2013

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By: Jordan Manser, Marketing Intern

Lately, there has been a lot of discussion regarding Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and its expansion into new and unique markets. PayPal, the e-commerce giant, is yet another company joining the BLE movement. In a recent blog post, PayPal unveiled what they call their, “most significant contribution to date in reinventing the in-store shopping experience.” PayPal Beacon is the latest add-on technology that will make hands-free transactions a reality.

The Beacon is a secure integrated solution that enables a transaction to take place without GPS or a wireless or phone network. Additionally, users do not even have to open the app. Any merchant operating point-of-sale systems compatible with PayPal can plug a PayPal Beacon device into a power outlet in their store. Once the Beacon is plugged in, stores can then offer a hands-free paying experience. Customers who download the PayPal app check in by walking into a store. This triggers a vibration or sound to confirm a successful check in. When it is time to pay, the customer’s photo will appear on the screen of the Point-of-Sale system, allowing them to be greeted by name. The payment is complete once a verbal confirmation is given.

Bluetooth technology is the key to this innovation. BLE enables seamless communication between the connected devices while maintaining a very low level of energy consumption. Over the course of the next few years, BLE will continue to grow, specifically in the smartphone and tablet markets.  According to Bluetooth SIG, the smartphone market is forecast to reach 700 million units by 2015 and expected to switch entirely to BLE technology, enabling these phones to become a hub for a multitude of other wireless devices.  Similarly, the Yankee Group, a research and advisory firm, estimates that tablet shipments will surge from 233 million in 2013 to 1.094 billion in 2017 for an annual growth of 36% (Forbes). By leveraging BLE, PayPal’s Beacon is tailored to these booming markets and positioned to experience substantial growth in the electronic point of sale, or ePOS industry. While initial opportunities to leverage BLE are already being developed, the number can only increase as innovative companies envision new possibilities for products working in or with phones and tablets embedded with BLE.