Has Bluetooth Peaked? I Say, "Yes it has."

I’m currently out at a real estate conference in New York City where around 1000 people who make their living communicating with clients are in attendance. (And one wine guru.)

One difference at this year’s conference that I’ve noticed is less use of bluetooth headsets. At first, this didn’t make sense to me since it seems like wireless headsets have many nice advantages for people who essentially live on their phones.

But, after surveying this for a bit, I came to the conclusion that the drop is probably due to a switch to smartphones where SMS and Email are even more effective for communicating with clients.

A review of Google Trends for “bluetooth” shows a search volume peak way back at Christmas 2005:

Bluetooth Search Trends

I’ve owned bluetooth headsets but using them was never habit forming. I default to SMS, Twitter, and email over actually dialing my phone 98% of the time which means I hardly use my phone as a phone. Because of this, a product that’s meant to increase convenience actually becomes a pain to carry around.

Sure, there are plenty of people who are huge bluetooth headset fans. No argument there. But on the whole, it looks like the market has peaked.

Bluetooth Based Advertising

It’s not often that I find myself in a position of rooting against a technology, but this could be one of those situations.

Bluetooth Advertising: Businesses install a bluetooth radio at their location such as a store within a mall. If you happen to walk by with a Bluetooth enabled device, such as a cell phone, you’re asked if you’d like to receive a message.

Here’s how it works.

First, I enabled Bluetooth on my Treo since it’s a bit of a battery hog to keep running all the time:

Enabling Bluetooth

Once enabled, I received a message asking me if I’d like to “Receive Media into Pics & Videos”:

Accept an Image

That’s a fairly cryptic message, but I think that’s my Treo’s fault. For example, it doesn’t say who I’ll be receiving the file from, which is pretty scary. My phone doesn’t like to sleep with people it hasn’t met.

I decided to accept the file, which caused this image to pop onto my screen:

Bluetooth Delivered Advertisement

That image could be an ad, an offer, etc. It’s up to the business to decide.

As this technology exists today, I think there are quite a few problems that need to be resolved.

First, it’s intrusive. Just because my Bluetooth is turned on doesn’t mean I’m interested in receiving advertisements. It may just be because I’m using a headset. I don’t want to be put in a position where I have to actively decline messages.

Second, I’m receiving files onto one of my most valuable communications device, which will end up being synced back onto my computer. I’m going to think long and hard before getting into the habit of accepting images that could contain viruses.

On the plus side:

Hyper-targeted advertising. Being able to advertise to people walking past your store sounds pretty awesome. And that could be valuable to many customers.

Other uses, such as pushing out promotions at concerts or trade shows, may work with some crowds.

It will be interesting to see if this technology catches on. I’m sure there are many uses for it that have not yet been discovered.

The implementation described above was by an Italian company called Proxima while demoing at CES last week. You can find more out about their products and case studies on their website.