Apple’s ibeacon--a revolution in business

  • 8 min read


The development and improvement of new technologies have greatly changed our lives. In the information age, you cannot despise even a slight new improvement of the technology. Because you would be very hard to know how much this technology means and how powerful it could be to the whole world.

Apple is the king of innovation. This great company never stops creating new ideas and putting them into practice. After its last innovation--smartphone has greatly changed the world, it recently introduced a new micro-location technology ibeacon, which would greatly change the business and our lives.


1.What is ibeacon?


The main reason for the name of beacon device is because it allows the device to estimate the proximity of the mobile device very accurately.

This new technology uses Bluetooth Low Energy support (also known as BLE). It was deployed in the most recent iOS 7. It allows low power Bluetooth enabled devices to communicate with mobile devices such as the iPhone 5s. BLE, although initially supported by iOS 7, was also recently supported by Android 4.3 and later. Though for Android, it still needs to work on how to support BLE fully. BLE uses proximity sensing to transmit unique keys or “identifiers” to the device and trigger actions. It requires a device have Bluetooth 4.0 support. Although BLE has been compared to NFC, they are very different and do not overlap. IBeacon is one such device that uses BLE. It can be used at home or by business to help keep track of your location and the users’ needs.


2.Experience a greater life with ibeacon technology

It is easy to understand how ibeacon works. It is usually used with a “beacon” device that communicates to the users’ device. It can send information about the business the user is visiting. But what would our future lives look like with ibeacon technology then? Here’re some examples.


For retail


Ibeacons could be used for retail solutions and applied to the entire retail market sector. They slows companies and brands to interact with their customers in ways not possible before. They can improve their customers experience and cater to their specific needs. Retailer can also use this as a market and advertisement tool. They can market new and special prices inventory, and help move that specific product. Mailers and email have been an important part of advertising, but with iBeacon, retailers can now supplement it with personalized messages and information, as the consumer shops.

IBeacons also allow for retailers to monitor consumer behavior, such as walking paths, store visits, products looked at, etc. Consumer behavior has always been a gold mine for retailers, but with new data such as consumer behavior within stores, retailers can now rearrange their stores merchandise to take advantage of such information. Retailers will be able to know if consumers spend more or less time on specific products, and also if the items that were considered the most, were bought or not. This can also help retailers capture lost revenues from sales that were impossible to capture before. Retailers can also compare results of different marketing campaigns real time such as A/B testing. Large retail chains can also keep track of customer traffic among different stores and sister brands. With iBeacon, retailers also get the opportunity to track online traffic and in store traffic of their customers. They can track to see if a customer has viewed an item online, and then visit a store to investigate more or to purchase it. This can help retailers customize and tailor their websites more based on the information they receive. This technology will also allow retailers notify customers of future events such as sales or workshops. To summarize, retailers can use the information captured by iBeacons, to track customer shopping behaviors, online, in-store and within stores. This type of data is priceless and can be used for marketing campaigns and improvement of the customers’ experience, online and offline.


    • Ÿ   Restaurants

With the help of ibeacon, a user who is walking by the restaurant could receive specials and is allowed to view the menu. Once the iPhone user walks into the restaurant, they are able to order from the menu and send the order directly to the kitchen.


    • Ÿ   Supermarket

A beacon device attached to a refrigerator could allow the user to change the information of current items in the refrigerator. Once an item is consumed, a shopping list is saved to the iPhone. Once the iPhone users visit the store, the beacon device at the supermarket alerts the user of the items on the shopping list and directs them to their location.


    • Ÿ   Clothing stores

Once the iPhone user comes in proximity of the store, a beacon is sent out and the user receives a notification from that particular clothing store with a personalized message. The iPhone user can then browses current specials or inventory. In this use case, one estimote beacon is placed near the entrance of the store, to welcome a customer and others are placed around the store next to particular categories of clothes, i.e. pants, dress shirts.


For other types of business for profit and nonprofit


    • Ÿ   Sporting events

With the help of ibeacon, your parking location could be stored and you would be directed to your seat or parking spot. Not only these, ibeacon could also offer dynamic information about your favorite player and enhance your experience by providing additional information, about the event or sales for the day. More convenient, more enjoyable!


    • Ÿ   Museums and other exhibitions

Museums and other exhibitions, can augment the visitors experience by offering more information about the current exhibit or piece being visited. Micro-locations can be setup that give the visitor a more interactive experience. Museums and exhibitions, can rely less on those horrid experience enhancing devices currently available, and provide richer and broader experiences. Museums have constantly battled with ways to improve visitor experience, since there is limited space for exhibits, and limited space for the amount of content provided. IBeacon can provide a solution to what museums and exhibits have battled so long to get. Information can also be provided for workshops and special exhibits that would only be offered at certain times. An agenda can be selected with the mobile device and the user can be directed to areas of interest in the exhibition.


    • Ÿ   Theme parks

Theme parks would also benefit from similar settings. Information about waiting lines can be sent directly to the user allowing the visitor to have fuller and richer experience.


    • Ÿ   Public transportations

Mass transit can also benefit from the use of iBeacon. Airports can help travelers with their itineraries and also locations for boarding and food areas. Airports can offer more information via an app that a traveler can interact with. It can also help travelers with accommodations or provide information for points of interest for the traveler upon arrival of the destination. Such apps can also direct travelers to public transportation, helping alleviate much of the stress visitors have on arrival to a new destination. They can also provide currency exchange information, and can be customized to the language of the visitors preference, further alleviating anxiety. Other forms of mass transit, can also help users of bus, trains, and subways find their way and help notify users of impending stops and reroutes. Often a traveler can be horrified at the complexity of public transportation, and although mapping applications have tried their best to help users, it has not been a complete solution.


    • Ÿ   Healthcare

In healthcare, hospitals can direct visitors or patients to areas they need to go to, or even allow newly admitted patients to fill out admission forms more quickly and easily. Patients can be notified of medications or even, notify nurses of their needs in a simpler and more dynamic way than just pushing an assistance button. Doctors can also be able to access lists of patients and their current locations, along with the doctors’ location in the hospital. The doctor can also pull up information of their patients, what medications they have been on, and their needs.


3.IBeacons’ flexibility

Given the iBeacons flexibility, a developer can create customized apps that allow store owners to communicate with their customers in a revolutionized way. This helps reduce costs, and potentially increase revenues by recommending products to their customers. Business owners can also use iBeacon to help provide a better and more personalized experience for their customers. IBeacon can also be used by iPhone users also to keep track of personalized information as shown in the example before. This new technology opens up new channels of revenue, for device manufacturers, software developers, business owners and even consumers.

This technology creates a new market. With a new eco system of devices and software the possibilities can be endless. Businesses have new was of interacting with their users, potentially helping them generate revenue from untapped sources. Also businesses need to purchases devices and software to function with these devices. Software developers and device manufacturers will benefit from these opportunities. Resellers can also take a piece of the pie, by providing services for installation of such devices and software. They can help tailor the application the business.


4.Win-win cooperation---Ibeacon+ wireless charging technology


Beacons can transmit information as close as 4 inches away up to 200 feet away, giving users and developer’s flexibility and coverage. Although BLE runs on low power it still consumes electricity and therefore can deplete the battery of a cell phone that can have a low charge. This causes the problem of a phone using up the rest of their charge communicating with such devices like the iBeacon. This can open up new ways for another sector of the wireless industry to benefit from wide BLE adoption. Although lithium ion batteries have slowly increased in capacity and devices have improved on energy efficiency, users have increased in their usage of mobile devices, and have demanded larger screens which use up more energy. Add the demands of BLE and these benefits in capacity and efficiency become less important, although they may help, users will still demand more energy from their mobile devices.

Enter wireless charging technologies to provide a solution the ever growing needs of mobile device users. Wireless charging is available now and as noted by Bloomberg, mobile devices can be easily upgraded to support wireless charging for a fee. The only problem with current wireless charging technology is that it needs to be in close or direct proximity to the wireless charger. No wonder companies like Energous Corp (Nasdaq: WATT) have seen their IPO’s sky rocket. Energous is a developer of wireless charging technology, located in Pleasonton, California, that provides a solution to close proximity wireless charging. Energous saw its stock price more than double in the days after going public. This is because Energous provides wireless charging at much greater distances than have previously been achieved. Energous allows for devices to charge at distances up to 15 feet. Energous hopes to be able to improve on this technology to charge up to 1.5 watts at a distance of up to 30 feet. With technology like this, BLE energy usage will not be an issue. Couple BLE devices with wireless charging, and mobile device users will not only be able to view dynamic content from their favorite retailers, but also charge their mobile devices as they shop. Energous’ technology allows for batteries to be charged by radio waves at a distance. They use a “3-D pocket-forming” technology that allows a software application to prioritize charging amongst devices. This allows for different charging rates to be applied to different devices depending on their needs or specifications set by the owner of the wireless charger. Energous hopes to develop a chip that can be embedded into batteries that would allow them to be wirelessly charged out of the box, without the need for aftermarket upgrades.

 5.How much does an ibeacon take?

Estimote recently was an exhibitor at the TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2013. Estimotes beacon developer kits run a cool $99 for it. This kit comes with three estimotes in three different colors. These devices do not use very much power and run on 3V CR 2450 batteries. Estimote makes available an SDK, their API and source code for some demo apps, so developers can do what they do best, develop.


The trend for Bluetooth technology to communicate with mobile devices is no longer the future but available now. With such a new technology, the possibilities in a new market could be endless. We will wait and see how this new business would change our lives greatly.