Technology is advancing at a rapid pace, gradually turning every science fiction into reality. Beacon technology is one of those technological advancements, which was once a figment of the imagination of many researchers. Let’s have a look at how beacon technology is evolving and changing our business world.
What is a Beacon?
A Beacon is a tiny, battery-powered, wireless, low-cost sensor with a built-in Bluetooth chip device that works on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). It allows Bluetooth enabled devices to receive data within short distances.
Beacon device is designed in such a way that it is easy to fix anywhere and can be efficiently used by everyone. It continuously broadcasts a radio signal, and when a device receives this signal it reads the beacon’s ID and triggers the action in the smartphone app based on the proximity of the beacon. What makes a beacon technology different is its ability to “wake up” an app, which is not open but has been downloaded on the Smartphone.
Deep Dive into Beacon Technology
Most beacons use BLE technology / Bluetooth Smart Technology as it requires low energy consumption and low implementation cost. The technology only allows for small amounts of data transmission, and it is the reason most beacons only transmit their IDs.
Beacon IDs consists of three values:
- Universally unique identifier (UUID)
- Major value
- Minor value
The purpose of transmitting the ID is to distinguish a beacon from all other beacons in a network. Major and Minor values are the integer values assigned to the beacon, for greater accuracy in identification. Beacon also carries information about its signal power to determine the proximity of the source.
iBeacon is a brand name created by Apple Inc., which was first presented at the World Wide Developer’s Conference in 2014 as part of Apple’s iOS 7. It is a technology innovation of Apple that has been implemented in the location framework in iOS 7 and newer operating systems. As described above, iBeacon uses BLE technology to sense proximity and transmit a UUID, which triggers an action in a compatible app or operating system.
Eddystone – A Game Changer
In response to iBeacons, Google came up with its beacon project called Eddystone on July 14, 2015, with more open and flexible approach. Eddystone is Google’s open-source, cross-platform BLE beacon format. While Apple’s iBeacon only works with iOS devices, Eddystone works with both Android and iOS devices. Unlike iBeacons, they broadcast not only their UUID but also pre-programmed web page URLs and thus don’t require the installation of specific apps. The URL could be a regular web page providing relevant information, for e.g. a beacon next to a restaurant can broadcast a link to a YouTube clip or their specialty menu. Certainly, Eddystone will bring in new IoT use cases.
With this drastic rise in beacon technology, companies are investing in this technology to generate greater revenues. Here I have given a brief detail about how retail industry is utilizing and availing benefits of beacon technology.
The rapidly growing e-Commerce industry has resulted in the decrease of footfall and in-store sales for both the small-time retailers and big brands. In-stores have understood that they have to mimic e-commerce in the areas of personalized offers and shopping experiences.
Thus, Retail is a critical area where beacons are expected to bring huge impact – from proximity marketing to contactless payments to in-store analytics. 85% of the retail industry is expected to leverage beacon technology by the end of the year 2016. Beacons may seem like hype today, but let’s have a glance at few of its revolutionary aspects.
Beacons send location awareness alerts, updates on merchandise/products, and promotional notifications to tempt a passerby to enter the store. It can also be used to analyse customers who walk past the store and their visit duration. This analysis will help in making strategic decisions on product display.
Beacons use in-store navigation and provide real-world analytics like:
- The areas and items a customer likes to explore
- Where a customer spent most of her/his time
- What and when s/he makes a purchase
- Most in-store rushed locations
- In-store deserted locations
- Busiest days of the store
- Number of people who walk into their store per day
These data provides insight into customer behavior and store performance. This analysis will help the retailers to organize their products, prices and place their products in strategic locations on strategic days and time. By knowing the repeated visitors to the store, retailers can reward those customers with loyalty benefits for their purchase.
Beacon makes a customer’s in-store journey personalized and unique. It fetches data from the wish list of a customer and notifies him when he comes across that particular product. It also recommends products based on price, quality, and offers to provide better in-store experience.
The customers who have already set up their payment information through their smartphone can use a connected beacon and complete their purchase by processing their payment (a.k.a contactless payment) without waiting in long queues. When a payment is done, the stock will be automatically updated.