Technical simplicity, ease of deployment and price are the keys that are placing iBeacons under the spotlight in many different industries. While the art is shaped and other clear uses are discovered, the 3 most immediate uses of this emerging technology are as follows:
1. Notifications / actions triggered by proximity
SPAM in the physical world come true. Substitutes of the flyer guys in the street. This is the immediate thought of customers. Contextual notifications in the real world, if we go to the most rigorous definition. The idea is that when approaching a certain distance from a beacon, we get a notification about something, such as the availability of a discount coupon.
But it doesn’t all have to be commercial, or for marketing or statistical, or for tracking of users, etc. This goes much, much further: to be able to know our position relative to a beacon and to give us the possibility of using these events to perform other actions, both in the real and virtual world. As the IFTTT guys do with our virtual activities, and its latest support to location as a “this” (trigger), for a “that” (an action).
Basically, we can make the lights / heating/ air conditioning come on as we approach our office or home, or start our car when we leave home, or conduct such automate actions as critical as having our morning coffee prepared in the office.
Turning back to the commercial sector, it is also possible to use the beacons in a similar way to RFID tags (or NFC smart tags), with the advantage of not needing NFC / RFID capable devices, so the actions are set to be triggered only when the device is very close to the beacon, as close as a few centimeters. This feature is very useful in the retail sector, where we can see information about a product in the device screen as we get close enough to the product or desired area.
A new buzzword has been coined in the tech-marketing dictionary to refer to the increased resolution in the field of geolocation. With beacons deployed indoors, it is possible for our devices to locate us precisely inside a building, and show our position on a map. Still ,we will have to go the extra mile so that information can be centralized and viewed within our mapping applications such as Google Maps; however, the integration of iBeacons inside specific apps in the retail sector (such as store apps), will come much earlier. I would love to know where exactly I am inside the airport at any given moment.
NFC has been slowly gaining ground in this area, and in fact it is a technology that VISA has adopted and it is already being used in many stores around the world. However, some big players like Apple do not support it, and this has greatly hindered NFC from dominating the mobile payments market at this time. PayPal has made a move in this direction, they have created the possibility of a hands-free payment through PayPal beacons. This is perhaps due to the existing barriers, where the beacon technology will take more time to be implemented on a large scale. Nonetheless, considering the added benefits, it may happen sooner than we think.
Can you imagine other interesting uses for the iBeacons?