The term Beacons came into focus mainly with the introduction of iBeacon technology by Apple in 2013. Since then, it has been generating quite a buzz in the industry. So, what exactly are beacons, what are they used for and what is their role in the future of technology? These are the questions we will try to answer in this article.
What is beacon technology?
A beacon is a small Bluetooth transmitter that transmits a specific signal that only a few devices (which are allowed) within its range can see. A smartphone with the right app can identify the beacon signal when it’s in range.
iBeacon is just another name given by Apple to its trademark based on Beacon technology. It is a technology standard that allows the specific apps installed in mobile devices of the users to communicate with the beacons in the physical world through Wi-Fi and other signals and take certain reactions. The technology is mainly used to identify the location of mobile devices (apps) in a specific area or location.
The Beacon technology is being widely used in the retail sector, where a brand or retailer identifies the present location of a potential consumer in the physical world and sends him/her specific promotional or contextual messages befitting the situation.
There are many other major and minor applications of this technology in the real world. It can be used to send helpful reminders to people based on their location, to make mobile payments, at airports, theme parks and more.
The iBeacon technology of Apple makes use of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology that can transmit data over small distances, similar to regular Bluetooth, but consumes less energy. Apple says that their technology enables Apple devices to send an alert to relevant apps/websites when a user enters or leaves a particular location.
So, basically, a brand or retail store through its beacons can detect the exact location of the customer at a given time, and send timely messages to fit the needs of that customer.
Suppose that you have downloaded the Reebok’s mobile app on your phone. Now, whenever you walk past a Reebok outlet, the company beacons will detect your phone and may entice you to visit the showroom by sending the right message at the right time. Even after you enter the showroom, beacons may send special offers, apply e-payment, etc., to make it a comfortable visit for you.
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How Does Beacon Technology Work?
When beacons were first introduced, they were quite big in size. But over the time, the size of beacons got reduced and now, a beacon can be fit in a very small area such as a sticker on the wall. It has now become much easier to use these devices in actual applications.
A beacon placed somewhere in the retail store will continuously transmit a BLE signal that can only be identified by particular apps installed on the smartphones within the range.
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Through their Bluetooth (BLE) capability, beacons can identify the location of customers and sends relevant messages to their smartphones. The beacons are secure in the way that they allow access only to the apps and websites that are allowed by the user.
That means, beacons only share information and provide help which has been authenticated by the user, ensuring a great user experience.
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Where is it used or what are the applications of beacon technology?
As you can probably assume, the best use of beacon technology is in the retail sector. Many big retail stores, including Macy’s, CVS, Target and others are already using beacons to communicate efficiently with their customers.
However, the application area of this technology goes way beyond the retail. The applications of beacon technology are virtually unlimited, some of which are mentioned below.
- In the retail sector – to communicate with the customer in real-time and provide timely suggestions.
- In daily life – to send helpful reminders to people, in smart homes, etc.
- Travel/transport – to send people useful notifications regarding the schedule of train/plane/bus, information about the change in time, current running status, etc. Some airlines are using beacons to effectively communicate with their traveling customers.
- Concert venues – to send concert details, updates and news to the people who have already arrived.
- Hotel industry – To identify when a person enters the room, use of beacons instead of room keys, to share details of upcoming programs in the hotel, etc.
- Sports – to share updates with the fans in the stadium, regarding seat upgrades, game schedule, upcoming games, etc.
- Business – to record the attendance and to communicate with the employees and management In the offices.
Beacon technology is applicable anywhere where there is a need for a proper communication channel within a short area.
Presently, there are many tech companies that have already established their names in the beacon market, while many others are working to manufacture beacon powered devices and software. Kontakt, the manufacturing company of beacons, is one of the biggest contenders in the market.
Apple has already developed and is successfully running its own iBeacon standard, around which modern beacons are built. Google also has its dedicated beacon standard, Eddystone. There are many other companies involved in the manufacturing of beacon devices and technologies, including Gelo, BlueSense and more.
Beacons are said to have the potential to revolutionize the whole customer experience market. It is being considered one of the most important pieces of the mobile-shopping industry.
It not only gives companies a more effective way to engage with their consumers but also it gives customers the easiest and effortless way to be in touch with their favorite brands. It won’t be wrong to say that beacons are an important part of the future of technology.