A Closer Look at iBeacons

You may or may not have heard about iBeacons. Well, if not, you probably should pay attention. IBeacons are small gizmos around the size of a matchbox. They’re essentially exactly what they’re called – a beacon that provides ‘I’ or information. ibeacon

How do iBeacons work?

Needless to say the iBeacon needs to be triggered and in this case the trigger is the smart phone. When a smartphone with Bluetooth 4.0 comes within a set proximity it will be sent a snippet of information in the form of a push notification. This means that the device doesn’t have to be unlocked to receive the message.

What Information do iBeacons send?

These little devices are essentially a box with an inbuilt Bluetooth transmitter running on the latest incarnation of the technology – 4.0 – a low energy version. In fact, the battery can last up to two years before it runs out, such is its low level energy usage. The Bluetooth version also doesn’t require pairing like previous versions and so can send information without the need for agreement.

The iBeacon sends out messages any device with Bluetooth 4.0 can detect – this means Apple iPhone’s from 4S onwards and a lot of Android’s with version 4.0 or above work with the technology.

So, what do iBeacons do?

The iBeacon could be a revolutionary gizmo and some users are heralding it as the biggest change for retailers since the arrival of the smart phone. Unlike NFC, which needs two devices to be in close proximity, iBeacons can work up to 50 metres away – depending on the environment? A coup.

This push notification can be anything from a special offer to a code for the Wi-Fi in the shop. It’s essentially dependant on the iBeacon set up and the place the person has walked into.

What are iBeacons Advantages?

IBeacons provide a number of notable advantages over alternative retail technologies that haven’t truly taken off. Unlike NFC which needs to be in close proximity or Wi-Fi which isn’t accurate and uses a lot of battery, iBeacons provide accurate positioning, require little battery use and don’t need to be within close proximity to a trigger to work.

This leaves them in a fantastic position in the retail sphere, as well as elsewhere and means there are numerous uses for them.

What are iBeacons Uses?

There are numerous uses for iBeacons inside and outside of retail settings and a number of brands are testing and trailing them at this very moment. Even though there are dozens of ways iBeacons can be used – here are some ideas.

Tesco has begun using them in one of its UK stores. The beacons are positioned beside certain items and used to showcase special offers and discount codes to consumers who walk in proximity to them. This can be a great way to get customers attention and encourag people to purchase items.

Virgin Atlantic has also begun trying out iBeacons. By placing iBeacons with temperature gauges in its planes it uses beacons to alert staff if parts of the plane drop below a specific temperature, meaning they can offer passengers blankets if needs be.

Apple was one of the first to use the iBeacons in store and began utilising the technology last year in the USA. The iBeacons were used to greet people with a push notification when they walked into the Apple Store. People were then sent maps of the store, info on promotions and notifications to their devices when their Genius Bar appointment was ready.

So, even though this is quite a bare bones overview of the iBeacon and this new technology, you can see that this technology could be utilised with significant benefits in and outside of a retail setting.

About Cormac Reynolds

Tech journalist, copywriter and lover of all things gadget, Cormac Reynolds has covered the whole technology spectrum at one time or another and remains geek at heart.When he’s not working – he’s swotting up a book or thinking about his next project. Contact him @Brightoncormac

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Cormac Reynolds

Tech journalist, copywriter and lover of all things gadget, Cormac Reynolds has covered the whole technology spectrum at one time or another and remains geek at heart.When he's not working - he's swotting up a book or thinking about his next project. Contact him @Brightoncormac

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