Published on February 12, 2014
An introduction to Beacons
What are Beacons and how do they work?
What? A beacon is a transmitter at a known location, which emits a continuous or periodic radio signal with limited information content (for example its identification or location). How? Any radio technology can be used to identify location but the most relevant technologies from a mobile beacon perspective are Wifi, Bluetooth and RFID. Beacons indicate their presence so that enabled devices can locate them. Each beacon is given a unique identifier. When a user’s device enters the beacon area, all installed apps subscribing to this unique identifier are notified. 3
20% OFF Mobile proximity marketing Depending on where the customers are in a store, and if they are As the customer moves to a different location, a new beacon carrying an enabled device, they will be able to receive messages in the area will alert them to offers on products they are now in from the closest beacon. For example, when browsing through a proximity to. Using mobile beacon technology, customers can specific section in a store, whether it be footwear or mp3 players, be contacted and kept informed while in-store to enrich their the local beacon could share location-specific information on experience. special offers, interesting facts, targeted promotions and more.
HJ09624 PH87134 Gardening stores. Gourmet food Restaurant offers. Accessories sections. OX18765 sections. Tabaco. Cinema sunday evening. No purchases on sales. Leather bags. Capuccino at Starbucks. Eyewear sections. Sushi & Italian restaurants. Micro-location & user targeting Knowing a customer’s exact location means it is easier to of the individual. Not only do we know what they purchase, but deliver information which is relevant to them at that precise we know what interests them judging by how long they stay in moment and context. However, micro-location user targeting a section, and can identify the factors triggering a purchase. can go far beyond simple proximity marketing. By being able to The information collected can then be analysed for a truly track a consumer’s behaviour, interests and location patterns personalized, relevant and engaging conversation. within a store or other business, we can obtain a clearer picture
30 m Check in Indoor-mapping With micro-location targeting, it is easier to offer users valuable to their airline desk for check-in. Once at the check-in desks, a information on navigating large areas such as airports, stadiums new beacon could provide information on the best route through or shopping centers. For example, a person arriving at an airport airport security as well as gate information. Stores, restaurants they are not familiar with could be guided through it via beacons. and other locations of interest would also be announced, A beacon at the entrance could welcome them and direct them specifying relevant offers where available.
Mobile tour guides Particularly interesting for museums and cities, a user could be and relevant information at key attractions as well as the best guided through the points of interest as well as providing further routes to take within the city, would add an element of flexibility information on their visit. With merely their mobile device enabled and freedom to the user experience. Guided museum tours to receive beacon communications, the user could forgo city would operate on a smaller scale in a similar fashion. guidebooks and focus on exploring the city. Receiving valuable
Mobile hands-free payments PayPal’s Beacon is a Bluetooth Low Energy USB module for stores up their preferences for automatic check-ins and approve being and other businesses allowing consumers to pay hands-free. The charged for any goods they purchase or consume. Once the device sets up communication between points-of-sale and mobile customer enters their preferred business, a vibration notifies them devices without the use for GPS, wireless or mobile networks. of their check-in as their photo appears on the merchant’s POS. Confirmation of verbal payment would complete the transaction The user has to install the PayPal app on their mobile device, set with a receipt sent automatically by email.
Tracking & business intelligence The most controversial but also the most common use case today spending inside the venue/location” and “where in a store/location of Wifi beacons is using the data collected by the Wifi hotspots for people spend most time”. This can be used for everything from business intelligence. Without users giving permission, the owner choosing locations and planning store layouts, to understanding of the Wifi nodes can use it to answer questions like “how many who the customers are and using those insights to come up with people walk by a given location each day”, ”what are the busiest new sales strategies. With user opt-in, the data becomes even hours throughout the day/week”, “how long is the average person more accurate and valuable.
How does iBeacon compare to other technologies?
We’ve been comparing technologies for some time now and although we believe iBeacons has the potential to be great, we don’t think there is a clear winner yet. Wifi NFC/RFID iBeacon/BLE Technology soon available with Wifi to Great accuracy for use with payments Based on Bluetooth Low Energy4.0 and be used with all smartphones. and product information. available on most new smartphones. Relatively inexpensive. Very low cost of RFID sensors/stickers Energy consumption much lower then (0.01 USD). Wifi. Not supported by Apple. Requires an app to be installed and Requires an installed app by user to engage. Bluetooth to be running. 20 cm (7.9 inch) range. Investments in Wifi SW/HW to achieve accuracy* Requires new technology/investments High battery consumption. and becomes complex to maintain PIXELATED when you scale up. Wifi power consumption higher then Bluetooth. * Cisco, Navizon, Meridian, KAIST, WirelessWerx, GISi Indoors, Euclid ... Requires installation of beacons.
The main technical approaches There are three basic approaches independent of the technology Infrastructure based: This uses e.g. the existing Wifi (Wifi or BLE): infrastructure (if supported) or dedicated Wifi or Bluetooth nodes. Device Based: This is the most common approach for outdoor Hybrid (Device and Infrastructure): Combines all available location (or to at least locate the building you’re in) as it can easily location information (Wifi, Bluetooth, GPS, sensors, etc) be implemented without permission/support from the network.
All 3 technologies are cheap and easy to pilot so try them out in one location and see what you think, how customers respond, what the perceived value add is and how the business case stacks up. When Apple chose BLE as standard rather than NFC/ RFID, we predicted that the two winning technologies in North America would be Wifi and BLE whereas NFC still had a good chance in the rest of the world. NFC may still play an important role in enterprise in North America as companies control which devices are purchased. A new kind of Wifi HW now exists that alters the transmitted power, making it very difficult to measure and map a wifi area for triangulation. This complicates the use of general Wifi for a lot of the core uses described in this presentation. In conclusion there is no one size fits all. The requirements for indoor positioning and customer engagement need to be assessed in each case before a recommendation can be given. However, even if BLE beacons are the hottest trend right now, Wifi can often fulfill the same requirements cheaper and more easily. 15
Suppliers of Beacons Since Apple announced iBeacon, 100s of companies have positioned themselves as Beacon and indoor location and marketing providers. Here are just a few relevant industry players: BLE Beacons: Entimote, Qualcomm, Roximity and indoor.rs Wifi positioning and tracking: Cisco, Ariba (Meridian), Navizon and Infsoft Proprietary Wifi nodes: knock.io Wifi location databases: Skyhook Wireless and AlterGeo 16
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