The Pros and Cons of Mobile Tracking

By: Katie Bascuas

Karim Guirguis, CIO at the American Bankruptcy Institute, discusses a new proximity-based technology and its possible benefits to associations. He also explains some of the downsides to this type of technology.

What is beacon technology?

It's an emerging technology that allows us to send messages or prompts to mobile devices by using physical beacons, or sensors. These beacons communicate and transmit data using low-energy Bluetooth connections that come standard in most new mobile devices.

So not only do we know the zip code or the building that you're in, but we actually know which wall you're next to, what table you're seated near, what room you're actually in.

How could associations use this type of technology?

To provide users with contextual, specific data that they would care about based on not just their interactions with an app but also based on their location.

For example, at a meeting or conference, as soon as someone walks into the hotel, I can welcome them with a message directing them to registration two floors below because I know where they are so I can tell them where they need to go. That personalization of the message is huge.

What else?

One of the things we're actually working on, besides indoor tracking, is tracking for education purposes. Now, attendees walk into a room and we're able to track their attendance when they scan their badges, but they can scan their badge and walk away.

With this technology, I can keep track of attendance better because I can see how long someone is staying in a room and that they're staying for the duration of the session.

What about the creepiness factor?

The biggest fear with this type of technology is the [potential for] abuse—abusing the user's trust. Transparency creates assurance and customer trust. That's very, very important. They need to understand why you're using the technology and what you're using the data for. Be clear from the beginning that you're not doing anything in the background that they don't know about.

Katie Bascuas is associate editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC. Email: [email protected].

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Tracking Devices."]

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is an associate editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC.