iBeacons - What are they? How can my business use them?

What is an iBeacon?

iBeacon is Apple's implementation of Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) wireless technology to create a different way of providing location-based information and services to iPhones and other iOS devices. iBeacon arrived in iOS7, which means it works with iPhone 4s or later, iPad (third generation and onwards) iPad mini and iPod touch (fifth generation or later).

It's worth noting the same BLE technology is also compatible with Android 4.3. and above.

How do they work ?

The beacons themselves are small, cheap Bluetooth transmitters. Apps installed on your iPhone listen out for the signal transmitted by these beacons and respond accordingly when the phone comes into range.

For example, if you pass a beacon in a shop, the retailer's app (assuming you have it installed) could display a special offer alert for you. On a visit to a museum, the museum's app would provide information about the closest display, using your distance from beacons placed near exhibits to work out your position. As such iBeacon could be a much better option for indoor mapping - which GPS struggles with.

Why are iBeacons such a big deal?

Delivering targeted content to users at the right time and the right place has always been a panacea to marketers but the potential goes beyond simply enabling a customer to get a simple promotion in a retail outlet..services such as find me, heatmapping, tracking and even payments are evolving with new suppliers entering the market almost daily.

How do I get started?

Costing as little as $5 each, buying an iBeacon is not a major investment. The key is how to optimise your network and the services your devices can deliver. A complex ecosystem of device manufacturers, middleware producers and app developers has developed. 

iBeacons in Events & Conferences

Squid Digital have worked with key global partners, to implement iBeacon infrastructures across a wide range of scenarios' to enhance and improve the attendee experience.  Below is some food for thought on areas that we could help with for your event with iBeacons.

  1. Attendee check-in.  On arrival at at event or conference venue, attendees receive a greeting notification on their device and are prompted to check-in. Using the event’s app, attendees check can themselves in and avoid line-ups.

  2. Navigation. iBeacons provide devices with extremely accurate location services, even without a wifi connection. In large conference facilities, usually indoors and where GPS is unreliable, iBeacons can be used to power accurate floor or venue maps. Additionally, valuable data on where your attendees are spending their time can be ascertained.

  3. Networking. Using iBeacons, attendees can network through an opt-in feature in the event’s app, allowing them to discover and message other attendees. With Linkedin integration, attendees can get a detailed look at who is around them and decide who they would like to connect with.

  4. Promotions and advertisements. Instead of distributing brochures or physical promotional materials, an exhibitor can send targeted promotions to attract attendees to their stand.

  5. Gamification. Integrating gamification into events will provide new ways to engage and stimulate attendees. For example, iBeacons could be used for social games to drive networking, venue tours tailored to individual interests, or scavenger hunts for exclusive information and prizes.