Marketing in Proximity: Beacons for the Internet of Everything

David Lastra

29 June 2016

The way that we access the Internet has changed rapidly in the past couple of years, as we have experienced the transition from desktop to mobile devices. Now, the Internet is expanding again, at high speed, reaching all of the everyday devices in our homes, businesses, and cities – i.e. the Internet of Everything. This is a market with a higher growth potential than the business of mobile phones, tablets, and computers combined, and with infinite possibilities, thanks to the existence of beacons.

Beacons are one of main electronic devices that is aiding in this growth; they are composed of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology and they send information to smartphones or other receiving devices, such as smart watches, bracelets monitoring our physical activity, Smart TVs, connected cars, etc.

How do beacon systems work?

Beacon is a word often used interchangeably with ‘lighthouse.’ Using a maritime parallelism, our phones would essentially represent the boats that identify the signal, and the lighthouse beam would be the channel through which data is sent (i.e. the Bluetooth Low Energy). In the same way that every lighthouse emits a different code, the beacon sends unique information, different from others, based on their ID.

The sailor in this representation would be our mobile app. The lighthouse emits a single unique message. The ship receives the information, and the sailor interprets the information, providing a response to it.

Beacon, iBeacon, UriBeacon?

The term iBeacon and beacon are used interchangeably, however, they do not have the exact same meaning, as the first refers to communication protocol, while the second refers to the hardware device.

In essence, this technology enables the location of a beacon on a micro-local scale and thus, delivers hyper-contextual content for users, depending on their location.

In 2013, Apple defined their own protocol for determining how to structure the information (UUID, or Major or minor, or Tx) transmitted by each beacon, thus christening the device with the name iBeacon. However, subseqyently Google changed the UUID concept (i.e. unique codes for each beacon) to a URL or unique link, hence the name uriBeacon. In both cases, we are talking about different packets of information that could be sent from the same beacon device.

Each beacon generates a trigger or triggers an action to be executed in the receiver terminal, and can modify these triggers (information packets) based on the information detected by additional sensors connected to the beacon. For example, we can have the beacon launch different messages depending on the temperature, or with a light sensor, send a request to turn off viewers’ phones in the cinema.

In addition, its transmission range reaches up to 100 meters, and it is characterized by low consumption (a battery cell can power the device for two years), which makes beacons the ideal devices for monitoring location or launching indoor actions.

Beacons: a world of possibilities

Beacon technology has more potential than the human brain can possibly imagine. Once one understands the potential that it has to provide context to users through their smartphone, it is impossible to stop dreaming of new and improved user experiences in physical spaces.

Of the multitude of existing cases, we wanted to create a collection of the most interesting, based on its originality and its contribution to business.

Geolocalized deals or offers with enabled mobile payment methods.

Navigation guides for the blind on the London Underground.

Enhance the educational experience of our youths, by restricting the use of mobile devices only when a professor enters the classroom.

Locating lost objects.

Expansion of the information provided in museums, and personalization of the different possible routes inside the enclosures.

Automatic assignation of numbers to people waiting in queues.

Automatic check-ins for your flights.

Flying drones following beacons or following a course charted by them.

Digital marketing is much more than the Internet.

It is common to think that, when speaking about digital transformation, we refer solely and exclusively to the Internet, as if it were a mere channel (either when talking about e-commerce or Facebook). Well, ‘this’ is much more complex than it seems.

In thinking about digital solutions, we must think about how technology (in the broadest sense of the word) can help bring more value to the user and/or business. The next step to enhancing the user experience with brands is also through the Internet of Everything, which presents a great opportunity for both the loyalty of users and to increase sales.

At Good Rebels, we already have a partner in e-solutions, Accent Systems. They are one of the most important players in the market, helping us to meet the challenge of taking beacon technology to our customers, and thus enabling us to address the digital transformation from its most ambitious perspective. Accent Systems’ extensive experience includes cases like OcluC Safe (the first smart safe) and Remotte, the first controller specially designed for use with the Google Glass.

Image Rights: Business Insider, Accent Systems.