In the last few years we have certainly learned that hype and natter don’t necessarily mean that new technology will take off – just take a look at Google Glass which is “resting” as of earlier this year after a tidal wave of disappointment and unenthused reviews.
If you’re not part of the conversation however, you can’t expect to be in the know, and if you’re not in the know then you’ll soon be using yesterday’s technology. We’re hearing a lot of noise recently about iBeacons and thought we’d add our two-cents for those unaware of the potential of Beacon technology – our team makes up several of just 40,000 devs tapping into it.
iBeacons are certainly nothing new, Apple has been using them in store since 2013 with their Apple Store app. What is new however is the understanding around what they can do for businesses, and the technology to support increased functionality.
What are iBeacons?
An iBeacon is a small, wireless sensor capable of broadcasting signals which your smartphone can read. Your device then produces content via an app offering a contextually richer experience, whatever that may be.
iBeacons are powered by coin battery and have built in antennas, running on BLE (Bluetooth Smart) technology. They are highly sensitive devices, monitoring location, temperature and motion, and work on any iOS 7.0 device onwards, as well as Android.
How can it change user experience?
Retailers are the primary example used to demonstrate the use of iBeacons to offer a richer experience to customers.
Imagine walking down the street and being pulled (reluctantly of course) into your favourite shoe shop by a push notification via the brand’s app which tells you there’s 10% off selected items today only. Based on your previous online purchases and perusing, with help from the beacons your smartphone can direct you to the stand which stocks your preferred style of shoe.
Not impressed yet? Well, stand there too long – perhaps it’s the shade or the shape you’re not quite sold on – and the beacon could instruct your app to offer you an additional 10% off since you’re clearly umming and ahhing. What’s more you could even pay for the shoes without waiting at a till, without even pulling out your wallet or purse.
From events to directions, the limits of iBeacons are nowhere in sight currently. The technology could single-handedly erase the need for audio guides in museums, internal maps, and welcome information packs as you enter an event.
The video below shows a brilliant example of using beacons to aid hard-sighted people to navigate busy or potentially hazardous environments:
Even in the last 12 months, battery life has been extended from 2 to 3 years, showing the pace at which this technology is advancing to meet future demand. Whether this demand materialises remains to be seen, however with names such as Macy’s, Virgin and Nivea all exploring the uses of iBeacons, we’re glad we’re on the iBeacon radar.