Beacons are a low-cost piece of hardware that utilizes low-energy Bluetooth connections to deliver messages or prompts directly to a smartphone or tablet. The technology is revolutionizing the way devices can connect and interact with each other, and physical spaces. Already a variety of industries are embracing beacons, including retail, events, and payments.
A recent report from BI Intelligence finds that Apple is in the driver’s seat with its iBeacon technology. The company recently announced that 200 million iOS devices are already compatible with iBeacon.
Here are the important points about the iBeacon:
- People are confused about Apple iBeacon because it has yet to take a true physical form. In other words, Apple hasn’t manufactured a physical beacon itself. Apple’s iBeacon technology is built into its devices and mobile operating system. But Apple has said that every device they’ve manufactured going back to the iPhone 4S and the iPad 3rd generation can already become an active iBeacon, if it’s running iOS 7. Meaning, nearly 200 million iPhones and iPads are ready to receive and send iBeacon signals.
- It’s worth emphasising this point: An iPhone or iPad can itself serve as a beacon, and send as well as receive signals. For example, a merchant could position an iPad to transmit Bluetooth LE notifications and information to iPhone-toting customers once they enter a store. Given the number of businesses that already use iPads in stores, there is huge potential for merchants to turn on the iBeacon technology within the store.
There are a variety of competitors to the iBeacon. PayPal and Qualcomm will look to challenge Apple with hardware of their own, while smaller vendors like Estimote, Swirl, and GPShopper are entering the mix by providing beacon management and consulting services on top of hardware or software platforms.
But iBeacon has a big lead with its technology already embedded on so many iPhones and iPads. Recently, the iBeacon got a major bump in the press with the news that the NFL deployed iBeacons at the Super Bowl. The MLB also has plans to install iBeacons in a number of stadiums for the upcoming season.
In full, the report:
- Makes the case that beacons will take off once a handful of major retailers roll them out.
- Includes the points-of-view of executives at several start-up beacon-focused firms.
- Dives into the data on consumer attitudes toward location-based notifications, and whether beacon-powered alerts will be welcomed or resisted.
- Lists many of the possible applications for beacons, and how some large retailers and organisations have already tried them.
- Explains why beacons powered by Bluetooth low energy is much more effective than Wi-Fi or GPS for powering notifications indoors.
- Breaks down Apple’s innovative strategy of making all of its devices potential receivers and transmitters in any implementation.