Excellent specialist blog, Blueserker, reports that UK rock band Coldplay are to try out "Bluecasting".
Bluecasting is the name of the company behind the operation, who are obviously hoping to get the generic handle for this type of activity - like "hoover" did in the UK, firstly for vacuuming and then for absolutely disastrous promotions which costs their companies £20 million in losses and gets the marketing department sacked.
Bluecasting works via Bluetooth and allows the sender to broadcast content - for instance, video clips, interviews and sound samples - to mobile phones within range of their server. In this case, servers will be located at high traffic areas, such as railway stations, alongside giant screens promoting the band.
This is all great if you're a fan of Coldplay, provided you don't object to being spammed, because in my opinion, this isn't Bluecasting it's Bluespamming.
The key difference between mobile spamming (via text or Bluetooth) is that the user must opt IN to receive the commercial message. While BlueCast state that their system is "totally compliant with the EU Digital Privacy Directive [Revision 3] and has been approved by the IPA", frankly I can't see how this is possible.
The only way that this seems to be justified is by the explanation that users must firstly switch their mobile phones to "discoverable". To me, this is disingenuous and akin to suggesting that you don't send unsolicited email because people could always switch off their email application if they don't want to hear from you. Or that people crossing the road should be knocked over as if they didn't want to be, they shouldn't be in the road in the first place.
Admittedly, users can opt out of this promotion. But supposing if they have their phones on discoverable for another, equally legitimate reason. Maybe they're trying to exchange a v-card with a business associate or using the new Nokia Sensor? Then they can still be spammed and what's more, WILL be spammed if they're in the area.
Furthermore, many, many people won't know how to make Bluetooth discoverable or not. And even if they do, they need act pretty sharpish if they don't want to be spammed first.
This seems to be against both the spirit and the letter of the EU Digital Privacy Directive.
By the way, I have asked BlueCast to comment on this and will happily update this is they come up with any answers.
The final area of concern in all this Bluespamming - and one pointed out indirectly on Bluecast's website - is that if I were an evil virus writer wanting to infect a few thousand mobiles, this is a brilliant opportunity. I'd set up my own transmitter and start infecting people, who, thinking they were getting something from a legitimate source, would happily install anything I sent them.
While Bluecast warn against installing applications, as opposed to viewing their content, how many people will read their website before getting bluespammed? And would most people know the difference between an application and a music file? Not many.
Sorry, but I think this is ill-conceived and will lead to complaints. The only way Bluetooth can be used like this is to ask permission and transmit on a phone by phone basis, but that leads to an horrible inefficiency.
Therefore, practically, is there a way this could work? Sure, get people to text in to a short code, promoted at the stations and deliver the content via WAP Push. Permission is granted and far more people have WAP enabled phones than Bluetooth.