Eleme, with 83 million monthly users, is owned by Alibaba, owned by Taobao, one of the world’s largest e-commerce platforms. Since launching the new system in many Chinese cities since 2018, Eleme says, it has saved traders $ 8 million in customer refunds due to complications, including delays.
To build, Eleme had to find a cheap way to work in a home. GPS is accurate up to 5 meters outside, but the walls, seats, even people distract from its signals. “It’s even worse at high altitudes,” he says Pat Panuto, professor of computer science at the University of California, San Diego. This is a problem because many urban retailers in China are located in multistory housing.
Indoor Wi-Fi hotspots and radio frequency recognition work, but Bluetooth is the cheapest, most reliable method. Its accuracy is about 10 meters, good enough to detect people walking in a shop or restaurant.
In early 2018, Alibaba installed more than 12,000 Bluetooth beacons in stores in Shanghai. The beacons produce signatures taken from the drivers’ phones as “ID tuples.” The program places each tuple on the server servers, where it corresponds to the business IDs, and the machine logs in to where and when the signal was sent.
These same networks are used extensively for goods, people, and services. One of the largest is located at London’s Gatwick Airport, where about 2,000 Bluetooth beacons are installed. But Eleme is one of the first to be built on a city level.
Depending on its system in several Chinese cities, Alibaba took advantage of the fact that phones can also serve as Bluetooth beacons. Apple launched the app on iOS devices in 2013, and similar models are now available on other phones.