As many people know, I’m intrigued by innovation and disruption. Therefore I’m curious about everything that has even the slightest opportunity to disrupt. So, while monitoring all kinds of trends, I often try to figure out what new stuff might do or change in different industries. But also what issues they will raise. This past year I’ve been checking out bluetooth beacon technology, just to see what it does in several markets. Although the figure of devises that have bluetooth enabled by default is only 40% in America and 43% in the Netherlands, an interference with market adoption, beacon technology could be a future game changer.
What are beacons?
Beacons are small sensors, sometimes even in size of a sticker, that can detect where someone is and trigger push messages. In other words, location-based mobile one-way communication. Beacons cannot interact in dialogue, it simply allows businesses to for instance make personalised offers, speed checkout processes, display messages on screens or collect proximity data. A bluetooth beacon can make a connection with a device in the vicinity that has an app installed, like iBeacon or a custom brand app. This article in Forbes explains the background of the technology somewhat further.
Why do beacons have a disruptive character?
Although some trending technologies have a slow adoption at first, they can still have the ability to catch fire. Beacons are – in small to medium scale – cheap, easy to use and can run on batteries. Let me give you five examples of domains in which beacons are being used to an increasing extent.
Especially retail companies could boost their business with this smart technology. It could improve customer experience enormously. There are a lot of possibilities, like using push notifications to welcome customers that enter the store, inform them about special promotions and show product information or a how-to video when they look at a product. Also, linking store visits to royalty programs would stimulate customers to buy in-store. Of course there’s still one marginal note: beacons in stores are worthless without an app on devices and the permission of the user to push messages on the phone.
Beacons can also help marketers to collect data and gain more detailed customer insights. How long do customers spend on average in the store? In what sections have they been looking? In order to use beacons for customer engagement, for marketers it might be good to find out more about the sometimes complex platforms and infrastructure behind the tiny wireless sensors. Check out the basics, here are 6 things marketers need to know about beacons.
The best way to learn is in practise, on the work floor. Location based learning is therefore hot topic these days. Getting the information you need, when and where you need it, is technologically no rocket science anymore. Thanks to beacons. Bright Alley, a Dutch online learning specialist that has been using this technology as a learning solution for a while now, recently showed me how that would enable companies to boost their employees’ skills and personal development.
Beacons provide the potential to map indoor area in a very detailed way, better than for instance GPS could do. One of the reasons Dutch carrier KLM has set the beacon ball rolling. It increases its passenger experience through indoor navigation. No more getting lost in the maze of a huge airport.
Another example in the traveling domain is a solution that helps people drive safely through tunnels. Often the navigation you are trusting loses GPS connection underground. Beacons in tunnels could fulfil this function locally and provide tunnel navigation.
Imagine, you are coming home after a day of hard work and your lights go on, temperature is set on a pleasant level, and your favourite music starts playing. Automatically. All because a beacon detects you entered your home. That would make your life a lot easier and relaxing, wouldn’t it?
Current global numbers of beacon usage
The article The evolving road of beacon tech indicates that today close to 500 proximity companies operate globally, and between 6 and 7 million beacons are deployed in commercial settings. By the end of 2020 this is expected to be a total of 500 million beacons, according forecasts.
Of course there are still challenges to face, like scalability, privacy and security. Adoption issues that need to be addressed, but are not insurmountable. After all, technology seems to have an answer to almost anything these days.
What is your answer to beacons, hot or not?