Beacon is the name for Apple’s technology standard, which allows Mobile Apps (running on both iOS and Android devices) to listen for signals from beacons in the physical world and react accordingly. In essence, Beacon allows Mobile Apps to understand their position on a micro-local scale, and deliver hyper-contextual content to users based on location. The underlying communication technology is Bluetooth Low Energy.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is a wireless personal area network technology used for transmitting data over short distances. As the name implies, it’s designed for low energy consumption and cost, while maintaining a communication range similar to that of its predecessor, Classic Bluetooth.
At smartSense we have developed a demo app for Beacons of various providers. We have used Estimote Location beacons, Estimote Sticker beacons and Onyx Enterprise beacons. smartSense has worked with beacons having range from 30m to up to 200m.
With a Beacon network, any brand, retailer, app, or platform will be able to understand exactly where a customer is in the brick and mortar environment. This provides an opportunity to send customers highly contextual, hyper-local, meaningful messages and advertisements on their smartphones.
The typical scenario looks like this. A consumer carrying a smartphone walks into a store. Apps installed on a consumer’s smartphone listen for Beacons. When an app hears the Beacon, it communicates the relevant data (UUID, Major, Minor, Tx) to its server, which then triggers an action. This could be something as simple as a push message [“There's a fresh collection of shoes nearby, check it out in aisle3!”], and could include other things like targeted advertisements, special offers, and helpful reminders [“Do you fancy a new hair colour?”]. Other potential applications include mobile payments and shopper analytics and implementation outside of retail, at airports, concert venues, theme parks, and more. The potential is limitless.
Beacons provide a digital extension into the physical world. We’re excited to see where this technology goes in the next few years.