‘Bluetooth’, a wireless technology standard for exchanging data over short distances between phones has been popular since early 2000s. Though many innovative products have been built on this technology, it has few drawbacks such as slower data transmission and higher battery consumption. Apple has reinvented the wheel using the same Bluetooth technology called iBeacon in the iOS7.0 release which will reshape the landscape of communicating and engaging with consumers, especially for the retail industry.
iBeacon is an indoor proximity system that Apple calls “a new class of low-powered, low-cost transmitters that can notify nearby iOS 7 devices of their presence”. The Beacon is a physical hardware device that uses Bluetooth low energy proximity sensing to transmit the UUID of the device to the mobile device. The mobile application which is programmed with the UUIDs of the iBeacon becomes active when the proximity of the iBeacon is close thereby allowing retailers to identify micro-location of the user and also engage in customer communication.
While there is considerable traction and momentum around the iBeacon feature, below are some key considerations we believe will drive Internet of Things into a huge opportunity for developers and retailers.
1. Low Energy Consumption, Cost-Effective and Efficient
iBeacon uses Bluetooth Low Energy, a new variant of Bluetooth technology that allows two-way communication between devices more effectively keeping the battery usage at minimal in comparison to a GPS location feature. Businesses will need to set-up Beacon transmitters that can send signals without Wi-Fi, 3G or GPS to mobile device. These transmitters are small and cheap, available between $15 and $30 each, with very low maintenance (Example: Estimote) of having a single coin battery run for about 1-2 years on the device.
2. Proximity Tracking – Micro location
Unlike other location tracking tools such as GPS/satellite tracking, Beacons tracks and captures location information accurate within inches of distance from the user. This gives a huge opportunity to understand customer behavior not just of buyers but also of window shoppers. By creating a mesh of beacons (geo-fencing) and using triangulation, shopping centers especially multi-level, public spaces like museums and stadiums can start providing their visitors with the convenience of useful information based on their closest location.
3. Customer Engagement
By creating a smart location-oriented infrastructure, mobile applications enabled with iBeacon feature can drive and create high customer interaction and engagement. Essentially using iBeacon, contextual information provides customers with information to watch product information, view videos, receive coupons and other discounts in real-time, depending on where they are in a store. For example, if you open a store app that utilizes iBeacon, you can receive directions to an aisle you need to get to in the grocery, look for other sales for a similar product , or find better deals or coupons as you walk through the store.
4. Data Collection and Customer Insights
Business Intelligence is crucial for every business to make better-informed decisions and there is no better way than customer insights. By building a smart data warehousing system, iBeacon can provide large amount of data with information about spending, buying, and consumer interest. This enables applications to customize content, messaging and customer experience in stores to increase sales and drive loyalty without end user input.
Acquiring wealth of information on in-store shopping behavior in real-time before a purchase is definitely a winning situation for retailers.
5. iBeacon is Not just for Retail
The iBeacon ecosystem has a potential to revolutionize other industries and enhance customer experience and communication.
- Hospitality – Museums, national parks and city tours can provide information to users about location and their historic prominence.
- Entertainment and Restaurants – Promotion to frequent guests with a promotion or provide offers designed to attract new customers within the close proximity of the location.
- Travel – Airline travelers offered ticket upgrades after check-in, tourists provided location information as users move in a bus or train.
6. Beacon on Android too
Android devices support iBeacon. However with limited interactivity and only above Android 4.3 version. Radius network in their github source provides an API library that allows developers to consumer the services intended to receive signals from the Beacons. I am sure in their new Android release, Google will come up with their answer to iBeacon of Apple similar to how they responded to notification messages of Apple’s push-notification.
Is there a new wave of opportunities, companies and developers can utilize using the iBeacon technology? We know for sure retailers can make use of iBeacon as a shopping assistant to help and understand consumers better. Retailers can now target the right shopper, in the right place, at the right time, interactively engaging them in real time giving them the right shopping experience. And we need to wait and watch on how this technology impacts other industries too.
Will be interesting to know your thoughts about iBeacon and the upcoming opportunities?
Engagement Manager, RapidValue Solutions