Have you heard the word Beacon being thrown around? Or maybe someone said iBeacon to you? What are they? Should we care?
Let’s break it down for you.
1. A Beacon knows where you are.
That’s its main job. To locate you. A Beacon is essentially a small indoor GPS. Generally it will be housed in a plastic casing that sits on shelves or is mounted to walls in shops and other public spaces. The Beacon’s main job is to speak to your mobile device.
If you have the right app installed on your phone, your device and this little GPS creature can talk to each other – sharing information about your activity. It can also pinpoint your location down to a few feet. Creepy. When you walk past the Beacon, relevant information can be shared to and from your phone via that app.
2. Beacons use Bluetooth.
Bluetooth has been around for about 20 years. It’s allowed us to do things like play music from wireless devices and tether our computers and phones. Beacons use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) a new lower energy Bluetooth, which means it can be used on your mobile device at all times without draining your battery.
3. Beacons are going to try to sell you things.
Let’s be honest here, the most talked about use for these nifty little devices is retail stores. Once a venue can locate you, they can talk to you in real and relevant time. Retail stores are always trying to gather insight into customer behavior and this can do it. How long did you stand in front of the chocolate aisle and how many times did you come back? Based on this information a retailer can send you an offer for chocolate direct to your mobile phone. Again with the creepy. Except this time, chocolate.
4. Beacons want to help as well.
Let’s say you’re at the football and you can’t find the toilet. Beacons can offer personalised navigation to the bar, the toilets, the hot chips, and even find your friends. That is going to come in handy after a few too many red cordials.
Yes, you’ve probably heard people saying iBeacon, and that’s because Apple have bought into the technology and are going to do their thing with it. Apple has filed documents with the Federal Communications Commission, which also suggest that they want to start making iBeacon hardware (the coloured things that go on the wall). Currently, it’s just a system in the current Apple’s iOS 7 mobile operating. This means iPhones and other Apple devices are constantly scanning for Beacons to talk to, whether the relevant app is open or not. Android users will have to open their app and consciously engage with the world of Beacons. Sorry for the extra clicks, pals.
Image via App.Xinhua