1. What is an iBeacon?
An iBeacon is a low cost, low power device that uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to transmit a signal to other devices such as your phone to determine its proximity to the beacon. These tiny gizmos will function using a tiny watch battery and can range anywhere from $5-$50. Apple first announced iBeacon last year at WWDC 2013 which all iOS 7 devices have built in. These iBeacons are revolutionary, allowing our devices to communicate with the world around us through push notifications. Imag
ine you are planning on buying a new television. The moment you walk up to the store, you will receive a notification listing all the deals and even a map of the store. After making your way to the television section, the iBeacon will know your exact location and send all the details, videos, and reviews on the television you are currently standing in front of.
2. Will I be bombarded with notifications everywhere I go?
The simple answer is no. iBeacons transmit small packages of data called UUID and but do not receive data from the phone. Phones will recognize the signal and know that it is close to the beacon. The iBeacons have limitations. You will not walk around a mall and receive hundreds of notifications of new products and sales. In order to receive push notifications for a specific store, you must have the participating stores app and your Bluetooth turned ON.
3. Do I have to have my own app?
iBeacons only deliver signals, meaning apps are necessary to send messages. Creating an app will allow the user to send push notifications with news, coupons, and directions. Luckily, Apple already has Passbook built into all iOS 7 devices which can be an alternative to creating your own. This allows users to experiment with iBeacon without having to dedicate the time and money into new software.
4. Is iBeacon only used to send discounts to consumers?
iBeacons can be used to engage with the consumers, generate new business, and even encourage repeated business. The possibilities are endless. There can be first-time buyer discounts, up selling, liquidating old products, promoting new products, and even creating a loyalty program. Earlier this year, Major League Baseball decided to implement iBeacon to benefit the consumers without profit in mind. With iBeacon and the MLB app beaming messages directly to their consumers smartphones, they are now able to make ticket purchasing and seat finding more efficient than before. With this in mind, say goodbye to long lines and getting lost trying to find seat Z-148.
The MLB was one of the first to implement beacon technology and are taking full advantage of it. This year’s All-Star Game at Target Field will now implement beacon technology throughout their attractions. This additional content will only be available through blue-tooth enabled devices. The nine attractions within Target Field will be the perfect example to display Apple’s future iBeacon technology. The MLB also has also updated their At Bat phone app. Now, MLB.TV premium users will be able to stream live footage of the All-Star Futures Game and within the app.
5. Do I have to completely reinvent my promotions for iBeacon?
If your company is already running a successful campaign, there is no need to come up with new promotions. The beauty of iBeacon allows you to take your success, and bring it to a new level. If you are already successfully promoting free drinks on birthdays, or 50% off happy hour, then there is no need to overcomplicate. Create a user-friendly environment for your consumer and make downloading your app worth while.
6. How can I make iBeacon more interactive?
On March 27-29, Macworld/iWorld took place at the Moscone center in San Francisco and required all participants check- in with iBeacon technology using Passbook. The moment they walked up to Moscone North, Passbook sent them a barcode which could be seen without unlocking the phone courtesy of Bleu Station. During the event, there was a scavenger hunt called “30 years of Mac.” This interactive game utilized iBeacon by requiring participants to walk around the expo finding clues and answering questions by scanning QR codes on Passbook. Whenever they got close to a check-point, the iBeacon would send the phone clues on where their next destination would be. All of the participants who successfully collected four passes were entered into a sweepstakes for a chance to win a MacMania Cruise to the British Isles and a free 90 Day subscription to Macworld Digital Magazine. Give a reason for your consumers to want your notifications without making yourself appear as a spamming machine.
7. Where can I purchase iBeacons?
There are beacons that can be purchased online. Gimbol, Estimote, Roximity, and RedBear are currently the top competitors. There is no beacon that is better than the other. Each can be used in different situations, have different battery life, and have different software developer kits (SDK). Check them out and find the best one for you.
iBeacon vs NFC
The biggest difference between the two are the proximities. iBeacon excels because it can reach up to 32 feet while NFC is limited to 4 centimeters. Another reason why iBeacon has become a competitor to NFC is because its compatibility with Windows, Android, and iOS devices.
NFC is passive because users must intentionally interact with the other user within proximity. For example, if a retailer had a poster which offered a 20% off coupon, the consumer would have to walk up to the poster and activate the coupon. In contrast, iBeacon has a more aggressive and in-your-face approach. As long as you are within range and have the retailers dedicated app, messages will be pushed to your phone at anytime.
While iBeacon looks to be the winner, it is still too early to say. NFC and iBeacon are predicted to coincide because of the difference in approach. While iBeacon has a large amount of potential, NFC has been around for years and it has been a safe way for the consumer and retailer to interact.
How else can I use beacon technology?
It’s no surprise that beacon technology will be the next biggest “thing”. There are more uses for the technology than for advertisement purposes. For example, when students and parents are touring campuses, they will be lost from the get go. They won’t know whether they are on campus or not, where to park, or simply, where to go. With beacon technology, these visitors will receive messages about where to park and how to get there. Only English speaking tour guides? Lucky for you, theres beacons placed at several locations across campus and can send messages in several languages. These beacons will send you information about where you are, what building you are standing in front of, and history of how it came to be.
UPDATE: How has iBeacon been used since its announcement?
Earlier this year, Virgin Atlantic began implementing iBeacons in Heathrow Airport. Working in sync with Passbook, passengers who had electronic boarding passes were able to receive messages within the airport. New features are constantly being added. Some of our favorites are:
-Automatic boarding pass load when first-class passengers are nearing private security gate.
-Special offers such as commission-free currency exchange once landed in new location
When iBeacon was first announced, Macy’s was one of the first to implement the technology within their stores. In collaboration with Shopkick’s mobile app, customers were able to earn points through purchases or by scanning items. Macy’s newest iBeacon update pertains to shopBeacon. With this function, Macy’s retailers will be able to send notifications and messages to iPhone users. This is currently being used in San Francisco and New York.
Similar to Macy’s, AE uses Shopkick for their customers and huge updates will be seen in the near future.
By now, you should have realized that iBeacon has huge potential in airports. Japan Airlines is no exception. Tokyo’s Haneda Airport takes a different approach with beacon technology by limiting it to staff. Along with smart watches, airline staff will easily be located and assigned different tasks throughout the airport.
St. George Bank:
Three St. George Banks in Sydney have begun iBeacon trials. Customers who enter the building will be sent push notifications and they will have the choice to respond or cancel the interaction all together. Because it is a trial, the bank is gathering information on whether the beacon devices will be able to create a more user-friendly environment.
Similar to Virgin Atlantic, EasyJet implemented iBeacon devices at London Luton (UK), Gatwick (UK), and Charles De Gaulle Airport (Paris). These beacons will beam messages to passengers from all locations. Messages ranged from location services and notifications to prepare documents before approaching checkpoints. Unlike Virgin, anyone with the EasyJet app will be able to take advantage of iBeacon.
This particular cinema began iBeacon trials in June. Although they have been using the beacons to push notifications, their biggest interest is the data. There are about 2.5million people who have access to the Odeon loyalty program and a third of them willing to subscribe. With these large numbers, Odeon Cinemas will be able to track how often customers enter, where they dwell, which way they enter, and which way they leave.
The largest deployment of iBeacons belongs to American Airlines. The trial first began in June within the Dallas Forth Worth Airport. Because 65% of plane passengers arrive early, beacons will send notifications regarding directions, wait times, and boarding updates. Passengers always fear being late and the beacon technology will take most of the stress away from their heads.