At Propeller, we believe iBeacons are going to be a large part of our future – blurring the lines between online and offline communication and interaction, but the question is…
SO, WHAT IS AN IBEACON?
iBeacon is a new technology which is being developed by Apple, and believe it or not, If you have an iPhone or an iPad or even an iPod Touch with iOS7 enabled, then you already have an iBeacon.
iBeacon serves as a way of extending the device’s core location services i.e. Location based apps e.g. Google Maps that use Cellular, WiFi and GPS to determine your location, but instead using the power of a Bluetooth Low Energy signal (BLE). Your iOS device can alert apps when you approach or leave a location with an iBeacon. In addition to monitoring location, an app can estimate your proximity to an iBeacon (for example, a display or checkout counter in a retail store).
iBeacon is based on, and is offered as an alternative to, an existing technology known as NFC.
IBEACON OR NFC?
NFC, also known as Near Field Communications is the term used for the information exchange between two devices. It’s short-range, low powered and highly accurate in the way of utilising your mobile phone to act as a credit or debit card, a loyalty card, a travel card and lots more. But… iBeacon is better (that’s right, we said it). The reasons why:
- NFC requires the banks and credit card companies to help facilitate transactions. iBeacons simply just requires your Apple account.
- NFC users have to tap their device next to a NFC tag in order to be pushed content but with iBeacons the content is pushed directly to the user, providing they have the brand’s app installed.
- The range of NFC is tiny. The range of iBeacons is up to 50 metres while still maintaining accuracy, this is due to iBeacons utilisation of a Bluetooth low energy signal (BLE).
- Smartphone payments can be made even when the user’s device does not have a network connection e.g. in a retail environment that has no Wi-Fi or 3G signal available. The smartphone simply uses BLE to communicate (Clever, right).
WHAT CAN WE DO WITH IBEACONS?
PayPal are a great example of how iBeacons can be used to take something as simple as payment in a clothes shop or in a cafe/restaurant and making that process even simplerand more streamlined. In the example of a Cafe, using iBeacon technology and the PayPal app, a user simply performs a ‘Check-In’ to the cafe via the app, makes their order and pays for it without ever having to walk up to a till or even approach a waitress. The order is sent to the till and once ready, the customer is either notified via the app to come and collect or the waitress uses the iBeacon technology to locate the customer’s exact position in the cafe and personally bring them their order. The transaction is done quickly, securely and efficiently. Check out the PayPal websitefor a much nicer way of explaining how their iBeacon works.
Other examples of iBeacons being used in the wild include the trials set out by Tesco and Waitrose to introduce iBeacons into their Supermarkets. Tesco and Waitrose intend to utilise the technology to send price promotions to shoppers while they’re browsing through sections of their respective stores. The technology also allows shoppers to scan barcodes, read reviews, add items to a virtual shopping basket, and finally, pay for goods via a mobile wallet.
The image gives you a more visual description of how the iBeacon will function in its environment.
We are actively looking into how iBeacons will benefit our clients and we have some exciting work in the pipeline that may just blow your minds so watch this space!