'Bluejacking' seen as marketing opportunity

The popularity of Bluejacking is leading companies to investigate Bluetooth as a marketing tool - but could also mean location-based spam

A survey carried out by a London public-relations firm suggests that Bluetooth-equipped mobile phones could become the next battleground for spam, with substantial interest in using the technology for location-based services, alongside an even more substantial opposition to Bluetooth spam.

The survey found that 82 percent of respondents would find unsolicited commercial messages sent to their mobile phones unacceptable, as might be expected given public concern about junk emails and junk text messages. But 68 percent of respondents said they would be interested in receiving commercial messages and coupons on an opt-in basis.

Rainier found that 74 percent of consumers were interested in receiving information or promotional location-based services on their mobile phones.

Rainier PR carried out the survey of 500 mobile phone users in Liverpool Street and Paddington railway stations between 26 November and 2 December, prompted by the newfound popularity of Bluejacking, or sending prank anonymous messages to other mobile phone users in public places. Bluetooth, a radio technology allowing devices to exchange data within a range of 10 metres, is expected to be in 20 percent of mobile phones by next year, according to Forrester Research, rising to 75 percent by 2008.

It is ordinarily used for connecting to wireless headsets or synchronising with PCs, but can also be used to send messages or business cards.

Bluetooth could be a potent marketing tool because it operates only over a short range, meaning that consumers could use it to find information about the local area and nearby shops. The popularity of Bluejacking suggests that there are now enough Bluetooth-enabled handsets on the streets to make marketing or location-based sevices viable, according to Russell Buckley, director of mobile marketing start-up TagText.

"There is clearly an opportunity for savvy marketeers to use this channel," said Rainier managing director Stephen Waddington, in a statement, though he cautioned marketing companies not to take the opportunity as "a green light".

Bluetooth spam could prove to be a real nuisance to mobile phone users, suggested Graham Cluley of antivirus firm Sophos. And if marketing companies aren't careful, users may take drastic action, he said -- such as switching Bluetooth off.