The word is out and the rustling begun! Well, Beacon has beamed its way into our lives, targeting numerous sectors and raising the hopes of even more. The emitter of mystic rays that buzz-up corresponding applications in your smartphones, is sure to cause a considerable disruption; the expansion of which is still being gauged.
For those still to get acquainted with this firebrand, here is a brief introduction.
What is Beacon
Beacon is a device emitting Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) radio signals which prompt the analogous apps in your phone to waken up and respond to action. BLE is a power-saving approach, with absolutely minimal battery consumption and almost zilch set-up requirements. As far as the application of Beacons are concerned, as aforementioned there can be as many uses as can be customized pertaining to one’s requirements.
There are increasing number of manufacturers as well as vendors trying to make an impression in the Beacon market. Estimote has earned a name in the Beacon market as the largest manufacturer of this device, however not lagging behind are other strong competitors like @GeLoInc; @kontakt_io is another big favorite when it comes to personalized appeal, with @BlueSenseNet and BlueCats too emerging as tough challengers in the race.
Before elaborating on the usefulness of this Bluetooth device in different commercial sectors, let’s magnify its intricacies. The first question to arise in your mind is, how do the Beacon beams transmit data?
How does Beacon Work
The Beacon beams relay UUID, Universally Unique Identifiers, definitive to the vendor, which can be modified using the accompanying Software Development Kit; the major and minor values define the region or the specific location, as the user may personalize. For instance, the next time you go to watch your favorite sport at a stadium there’s an app to guide you throughout instead of volunteers showing around the way. This is how it might work, the moment you enter the detection diameter of the Beacon’s range, it awakens the relevant app (UUID) with a welcome message also confirming your tickets to avoid the hassle; once you have entered the stadium complex (major) you are informed about which direction to proceed in to find your seats; during the interval you will receive updates about where to find refreshments, restrooms or other amusements such as gallery or exhibition in the vicinity (minor).
Real World Scenarios where Beacons are Adopted
Beacon is about to become a revolutionizing name in the retail sector, the disruptor who will take offline sales to a new level. Of course there are other sectors which will benefit from this technology, yet right now the major part is being reaped by retail.
The moment you enter into the broadcasting vicinity of the store, the beams will awaken the app in your smartphone and there will be all sorts of info available, right from the offers of the day to product details and discounts on particular items as you move into the different segments of the store. Not only this, you can trigger for any sort of help from the executives at the store through your app. So, to summarize real-time shopping also turned techno-friendly for those who cannot shop when devoid of the touch and feel factors.
Now, let’s explore how Beacon turned into an advantageous technique that has become the talk of the town:
a. Building Loyalty Program
Just think about the numerous buyers you gain with the option of an online store and the hassles it saves you from. And how empty does your real store suddenly becomes? Well! You constantly are trying to study and implement consumer buying habits but what if there’s a simple technique that pulls the buyer into your store and even help him make the desired pick.
This is what Beacon does, it identifies the app holder, triggers the app and your prospect walks into the store. There is no need to constantly bombard the customers with latest offers when they are not even planning for a shopping spree. Rather you must lure them when someone is already out on the hunt.
b. Indoor Mapping
The more intelligently you make use of this technology, the higher will be your accuracy level. Let’s take another example here, if you are in a library we are considering a huge one here. You might have some difficulty in locating the section you are interested in; further it would be a particular author or a book. To make it all easier for you, there will be Beacons placed inside the library to help the user easily identify its target.
There can be many advantages of this technique pertaining to the different jobs it will be utilized for. The arena is open we can test our Beacon requirements freely.
Some Known Challenges Associated with Beacons
Beacon Security Concerns
After sending more than 10,000 kits to developers on a worldwide scale, Estimote has made a fascinating attempt of collecting reviews and feedback, to aid in the improvisation process of its Beacon. However, one of the major concerns shared by this vendor might be of interest as well as concern to many.
Since the UUID along with the major and minor values are openly available, they can be easily copied by any device compatible with it. Manipulating this UUID value using the SDK is as easy as copying it. And once manipulated the relevant apps will be displaying wrong locations.
Hence, this Beacon manufacturer has promised a security layer for its future release. As of now, one needs to be careful if creating an app which needs security. You can also apply security measures by rotating the UUID and combining it with other secured signals using GPS.
Beacon Detection Challenges
While working on a Beacon application for our client, we came across this problem and would like to elaborate on it. If there are others who have faced similar concerns or have suggestions for us, feel free to share it.
The project aforementioned was related to a restaurant, the owner of which needed an interactive application that would enhance the CRM and build more clientele for him. He actually wanted to adopt a more techno-friendly approach which was not very expensive. Building the mobile application didn’t seem very challenging, until we realized that the issue which seemed minor was leading to a somewhat major hurdle.
Since the restaurant was located in a mall, the glass doors at the entrance would hinder the signal strength of the Beacon. Thereby the app often wouldn’t wake up initially and even if it did the connectivity issues would pester the customers and the merchant. We did find an answer to the problem but that’s a different story.
The moral of the story is that there are detection issues, which can be solved by regulating the broadcasting power of the device. However, high power takes toll on the battery life of Beacon.
Is Beacon Technology Really the New Wave of Disruption?
The most obvious question to arise in your mind, once you have been through the proficiency of this device, how much disruption will Beacon cause? Here’s a comparative study so that we can get a clearer picture:
a. Beacon vs. NFC and QR Codes
The first drawback of an NFC (Near Field Communication) is its signal strength which is very limited when compared to Beacon. While a Beacon continually transmits signal to awaken the corresponding apps, the NFC tag is cue for the user and a choice whether he wants to engage the data sharing. Being a less intrusive form of technology NFC do not always impress the aggressive sales and marketing practices.
One cannot disagree that QR Codes have not been able to make a place for themselves as they should have. Undoubtedly a very remarkable technique yet almost lost in the crowd. There are fewer mobile app users who want to take out the time to scan QR Codes, when there are faster and self-approaching Beacons available.
b. iBeacon vs. PayPal Beacon
One can say the competition is kind of fierce between these two. iBeacon developed by Apple and launched in iOS7 is still in its initial stages. Compatible with iPhone 4s and the ones launched after it, this is also friendly with iPad third generation and those introduced later. The technology will respond only if you have the corresponding app installed in your iPhone and you are within a certain distance of the Beacon boundary, also you should stay there for more than 20 seconds to let the Beacon beam trigger the app.
With the PayPal Beacon it seems like another interesting scenario, not only for the buyer but also for the merchant. The buyer is directed about all the stores with the PayPal facility and the merchant gets to know who is in the store, thus easily generating all the details in a click when billing the client. And the best part is you are requested for a check-in only once and then all your details are registered and saved for future.
Indeed Beacon has a promising future and there are already many stakes on it. When considering the future, it will surely need to evolve especially pertaining to the security issues. There are numerous sectors which can beneficially adopt and customize it to their advantages. It is already being trialled in different projects and some of them really big scale. The increasing number of Beacon manufacturers are themselves an insignia of how much this technology is in demand. A technology worthy of bringing disruption!