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Report: Hundreds Of LA Bus Benches Outfitted With 'Beacon' Technology

LOS ANGELES ( — A Southland bench advertising firm says it has partnered with city officials to test out the use of a signal-emitting technology on a "small percentage" of local bus benches.

In a press release dated Oct. 16, Martin Outdoor Media announced the pilot program with the city that is aimed at learning how beacon technology "can provide timely and personal information to residents and visitors based on their proximate location."

Manufactured by San Diego-based tech firm Gimbal, the Bluetooth Smart iBeacon will allow individuals who have opted-in to mobile apps that have been enabled with Gimbal technology "with information, content and offers that are most relevant to them, in real-time, based on their proximity to beacons."

When Gimbal-enabled apps receive "sightings" from an iBeacon, information such as beacon name, battery level, and temperature are sent to the company's server. In response, the app can display customized content such as a coupon deal or information about the user's current location, according to the company.

The beacons will only work if a consumer downloads and opts-in to any app that has the Gimbal technology embedded and the beacons do not track or monitor what the consumer does on his or her phone, according to a statement from Martin Outdoor.

A Buzzfeed report citing Martin Outdoor Media CEO Randall Smith stated the beacons have been installed in "less than 5 percent" - or approximately 250 - of L.A.'s more than 5,000 bus benches citywide.

Martin is the exclusive bus bench vendor within the city of Los Angeles, according to the company.

The firm will only use beacons that cannot store any consumer information and operate solely in a transmit-only mode, somewhat similar to how GPS functions, according to company officials.

In a statement, Smith said the pilot program is seeking to better understand how technology can be adapted to benefit consumers through apps that have opt-out and privacy controls.

"The pilot program is in its infancy and we believe this provides a great opportunity for app developers in a wide spectrum of services to provide individuals who have opted-in to receive more personalized, targeted services and information," said Smith. "We specifically selected Gimbal Proximity Beacons because of their best in class security and consumer-controlled privacy at the app level."

Potential uses for the technology could involve providing traffic updates, emergency and social services, and information on cultural events and local attractions, Smith said.

Similar beacon programs have been uncovered in Chicago and New York City, where a Buzzfeed investigation released earlier this month found hundreds of similar Bluetooth devices inside phone booths citywide.

Hours after the report was published, city officials ordered the removal of the devices, according to Buzzfeed.

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