Columbus, Georgia to be the World’s First iBeacon-Enabled Safe City

Staff Report From Columbus CEO

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

On Friday, December 4th, San Diego-based app developer Piper announced the launch of “Columbus Safe City” initiative in Columbus, GA. Piper is a proximity-based Bluetooth messaging system that uses iBeacon technology to send messages to users’ phones that have downloaded the free iOS or Android Piper app. Piper has installed over a 1,000 beacons in Columbus with over 75 businesses and organizations on the local network, including early adopters like McDonald’s, Nissan, and many local retailers pushing messages that include simple text notifications, Piper-only specials, photos, videos, links to websites or social media, and even in some instances Apple Passes.  In doing so, Columbus, GA has become the world’s first, and most fully connected, iBeacon city.

Columbus Georgia’s Safe City vision takes Piper’s iBeacon technology to another level, connecting communities like never before. Columbus Safe City is a first-of-its-kind public safety initiative supported by the city to help make trails and high traffic areas both more engaging and safer for the citizens. Should users have a safety concern or want to report suspicious behavior, the app allows them to call 911 or text the police with their accurate location data based on the nearest iBeacon’s number. With Piper being integrated into the police department’s system, the authorities are able to dispatch officers and first responders more rapidly and accurately. There are also messages about tourism points of interest, fitness and health tips, and even some promoting the regional attractions. To date, phase 1 consists of 250 beacons deployed along the RiverWalk. The entire Columbus Safe City program has been done Pro Bono by Piper at no expense to local taxpayers.

Columbus Police Maj. Stan Swiney worked with Piper to create the network and attended the launch to explain Safe City’s role in augmenting, not replacing 911 Emergency Services. “In many places along the RiverWalk, obviously some of the most lovely and remote places, your exact location becomes uncertain,” said Swiney. “We wanted to make sure that when someone sees something they want to report to the police or needs the assistance of any public safety, that they will be able to narrow their location down. That’s what the Piper beacons do for us.”

Another local institution that helped Columbus, GA become the world’s first iBeacon City is Columbus State University who will deploy a similar Safe Campus initiative. Currently, CSU has deployed Piper to offer self guided virtual orientation tours, send out campus-wide messages to students, including dining offers, latest news, sports updates and information about recreation center classes. Dr. John Lester, CSU’s communications chief, believes that the beacon technology afforded by Piper enables the Communication Department the ability to connect with millennials. “It allows us to bring the message to a tech-savvy, socially comfortable, younger generation of students,” said Lester. “It’s just another way for us to talk to those students in a way that’s very, very familiar to them.”

Columbus was chosen as the test market for Piper from a shortlist of cities with populations between 200,000 and 500,000. When it came time to make a decision, Robert Hanczor, CEO of Piper, said Columbus emerged the clear frontrunner due to it being what Hanczor called “a microcosm.”

“You have large enterprises and an active small business community here as well as incredible attractions and organizations. Uptown Columbus, for example, provides a perfect test ground for us with events, restaurants, tourism, hospitality, and retail all mixed in with loads of millennials thanks to Columbus State University. “

But falling within the prescribed population specifications and boasting a wealth of attractions aren’t the only reason Columbus staked its claim as the first iBeacon-enabled Safe City in the world. As Columbus, GA Mayor Teresa Tomlinson remarked, another reason is the people who call Columbus home.

“The truth is, Columbus is a city of innovators. We embrace ingenuity, and that is very important in an era that will be marked by ingenuity and creativity,” Tomlinson said. “It is very appropriate that we are the first Piper beacon city. You can have the greatest app in the world, but if you don’t have a network of beacons and if you don’t have a breadth of users, it doesn’t matter.”