Red_Star_Digital_Blog_iBeaconA little known release from Apple that’s slowly gaining more and more attention is the iBeacon software included in all Apple products using iOS7. Using the Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) feature built in to all newer Apple products, iBeacon enhances location-tracking services for any device running iOS7, without requiring the use of Wi-Fi or GPS. Not only is it more accurate than GPS location services, which are only accurate to within 30 feet and are dependent on being in a location that’s GPS compatible, it is more battery friendly and can run continuously without leaving your device drained. But what does this mean for the consumer and your business?

The New Way to Pay … And So Much More

You’re probably familiar with Near Field Communication (NFC) – the technology that allows you to use your mobile phone to access information through QR codes, contact-less payments and data exchange. While businesses have invested in the technology required to support NFC, widespread use by consumers is yet to be seen. In addition, the actual application of the technology is limited to a very small radius and requires cooperation between third party businesses in order to work to its full potential. iBeacon has no such limitations, and has a far wider reaching potential than NFC can offer due to its ability to accurately locate devices that support the software.

Using Bluetooth LE instead of depending on a chip, it allows Apple devices going back two years to utilise the software. Better yet, it’s compatible with Android, and Google intend to support Bluetooth LE with their Android 4.3 release. This means that you haven’t got to update your device in order to take advantage of the technology, something that consumers would have likely been unwilling to do. But where iBeacon really comes into its own is its ability to offer interactive experiences at compatible locations.

iBeacon for Businesses

iBeacon’s ability to accurately pinpoint user location, even when inside a building, makes it perfect for targeted marketing. In fact, the technology is already being tested by Major League Baseball (MLB) and Macy’s in the United States, to create interactive experiences for their customers that are informative, cost saving and beneficial. iBeacon’s location services allow businesses to accurately determine where in a location their customer is and send notifications based on previous information, such as sales, to notify that customer that an item they had expressed an interest in is on sale in the department they’re standing in.

Going one step further, MLB are putting together a consumer experience to rival all others. By knowing your location, the stadium can offer you specific information based on your physical position. As you enter the stadium your ticket will appear, along with a map to your seat. It can offer information on the stadium and home team depending on location and whether the user has previously visited the stadium, offer a coupon for money of hot dogs when near concession stands, and track the number of times a user has visited to create a loyalty card scheme.

For businesses, the information that can be tracked and recorded can be real-time, as can the information, offers and ability to pay for products that is sent back to the user. It can allow businesses to accurately target users of the software with sales, information and offers based on preferences, current location within the store, and user history.

iBeacon’s range is around 84,000 square feet. For a business like Macy’s, typically about 175,000 square feet, two to three iBeacon transmitters would be required to properly cover the area. And while the idea of paying to upgrade technology in order to take advantage of the software may be a worry, the transmitters are relatively inexpensive to purchase, making this a potentially cost effective choice in marketing strategy and customer engagement.

There’s no news yet on when iBeacon will be rolled out across the board. The software works in conjunction with the Shopkick and Apple Passbook apps (amongst others), which users would need in order to gain the full potential of the system. Apps would be ‘woken’ when in proximity of iBeacon transmitters, allowing your phone to notify you of relevant information, even if your phone is asleep. While very little is known about the technology, as more and more retailers, businesses and locations begin to utilise iBeacon into their customer experience, we should see a rise in usage and uses across the board.