“The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it”~ Harry Emerson.
Technology is moving so swiftly that it is very difficult to keep up the pace with it. One can never say he is fully updated with all the technologies. What is new today is continuously being challenged from the very next day. We live in an age where everything you can do to make your product or service better counts. The race to keep abreast with these rapid technologies leaps is now very much the heart of the game. ‘Wait and see’ is simply unaffordable and untenable. This blog throw some light on one of such incredible device called ‘ibeacons’.
What is a Beacon?
A beacon is a small device about 3cm×5cm×2cm. It constantly sends out radio signals to nearby smartphones and tablets containing a small amount of data. The signal strength and time between each signal can be configured to give a desired coverage. Mobile applications can listen for these signals being broadcast and when they hear a relevant signal, can trigger an action on your phone. Beacons work using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) which is a version of more common Bluetooth protocol, designed to use very little power and send less data – typically 1-20% of standard Bluetooth power at 15-50% of the speed. The beacons themselves are typically stuck to walls/ceilings or hidden in another objects since you can detect a beacon up to 70m away with no obstructions (depending on the power level).
Where can we buy these Beacons from?
Currently there are plenty of beacon manufacturers out there, all offering different range of features, flexibility, reliability and battery life. The two of the more popular manufacturers are Estimote and Kontakt. They offer a good SDK (software package which allows you to configure and play around with the beacon, while also offering pretty decent battery life. There are a variety of types of beacons available like super small beacon, super long life beacons or waterproof/sturdy beacons.
Where can we use these Beacons?
This is where beacons get really interesting as you can do so many things with them, and the list keeps getting longer as people imagine new uses. Currently some of the working uses include:
- Location based advertisements or messages
- Positioning and navigation indoors
- Tracking of people or possessions
- Security and automatic locking/unlocking of a computer
- Trigger requests for things like payments (note payments cannot be contained in BLE itself as it isn’t encrypted)
Where are Beacons used today?
- Hamad International Airport (HIA), in Doha, Qatar, launched its new iBeacon enhanced mobile app which helps passengers find their way around the airport and deliver contextual information. You can scan your boarding pass and get real-time info on the flight status, baggage claim and directions to the gate. You can also get great deals from their award-winning shopping emporium. They have a global search feature that matches and delivers relevant content and information quickly to help instead of a traditional app menu. They have over 700 Bluetooth iBeacons. It is just on iOS but they are looking to launch on Android plus integrate with the Wi-Fi system soon.
- Macy’s is rolling out beacons across their stores in the US, for in-store marketing and loyalty.
- Major League Baseball are using beacons in their ballparks to offer fans the ability to check in, and get additional content on their phones.
- San Francisco Airport is using beacons to help blind people to navigate.
- The Swan Centre in the UK became the first shopping mall to use beacons, which allowed them to organise some in-store campaigns for its visitors.
- New Museum in NYC use beacons to give visitors a realistic minefield experience on their phones, where beacons become ‘virtual mines’.
- BeHere app allows students to register attendance automatically with their phones in their pockets.
How TechTreeIT has used Beacon Technology?
TechTree IT partnered with Beacon Brenzy mobile apps Private Limited and launched our product Brenzy in September 2015. It is a proximity based selling solution for retailers which helps consumers help make smarter choices and decisions by providing personalised and relevant information at the right place and at the right time. Data analytics for businesses like ‘what their customers are buying, where are they frequenting, their brand preferences, etc.’ are also provided.
How does the Brenzy App work?
Beacon is placed indoors to relay signals to a smartphone in its vicinity. This Beacon just emits signals, which triggers a mobile Application on the smartphone. The App then interacts with the back-end platform to serve relevant content on the phone over the air. Mobile app is triggered only once a beacon is detected. It automatically activates on detection and hence has a profound yet non-intrusive impact on user experience. Personalized advertisements and relevant content is delivered to the App to promote customer business.
- Mobile app is free.
- Enterprises :
We have subscription model for each enterprise:
- Each beacon: Charge per installation at the reception / Month
- Content server per user
- Web Module and Reports are available for all the enterprises live on subscription.
- Value added services for enterprises.
- Mapping services
- Advanced reporting
- Loyalty Programs
- White Label solution also available
What more can we see from Beacons?
As I said earlier the list keeps going on with people using their imagination and using it in various ways. Some of them are listed below.
- Beacons can help keep a track of firefighters -> US Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate and TRX Systems launched a low-cost tool earlier this year called the Firefighter Accountability and Proximity system (FFAP), the system they developed uses beacons to send alerts when a firefighter is down where GPS isn’t working. It turns on automatically with the motion of the firefighter. It then sends out an alarm if it is not moving or the firefighter triggers the alarm manually. A team leader can get alerts and see the locations of the firefighters on their Android phone. For improved accuracy, beacons send signals back and forth to each other. The time it takes for the signals to be received can help calculate.
- Facebook’s beacons -> these can be used to inform users about the business. Inside the Facebook app, a tooltip with red “i” will pop up with tips about a place near you, otherwise known as “Place Tips”. If the user has Bluetooth on and opens up the Facebook app near one of your Facebook beacons, it Place Tips such as liking your business on Facebook, a welcome note and photo, posts from your page, or their friend’s recommendations about your place.
- Uber partners with an IBeacon app in India -> Uber’s passengers in the city of Ahmedabad will be offered deals from restaurant partners of the Indian start-up app Voolsy. Voolsy recently began offering the first iBeacon enabled app for restaurant in India. Guests can find a table, get the menu, order and pay thanks to their app and beacons. This app has been helping the very crowded restaurants in India provide their patrons better service than they could with their limited manpower. The deals will be shown from restaurants close to the destination of the passengers and offered for one week. Uber users get an extra discount with Voolsy and Voolsy users got two free rides (up to rs75).
- The world’s first video beacon (Estimote Mirror) -> it’s the world’s first video-enabled beacon. Estimote Mirror can not only communicate with nearby phones and their corresponding apps, but also take content from these apps and display it on any digital screen around you.