What is iBeacon?
iBeacon technology is a Bluetooth technology standard created by Apple that allows mobile applications to listen and respond to beaconing hardware in an indoor environment. There are two parts to the technology – a beacon to send the initial signal, and a smartphone or electronic device to receive, process, and respond to the signal. A beacon is created using a Bluetooth chipset, a small coin-size battery, firmware, and an SDK. These devices emit Bluetooth low-energy signals (BLE signals) every second in order to communicate with devices around them.
Bluetooth low-energy differs from standard Bluetooth in that it is a newer technology, transfers less data, and has a much lower power consumption – allowing one battery to last up to 4 or 5 years. Standard Bluetooth technology, such as connecting a phone to an external speaker and playing music, consumes a great deal of power because it typically sends large amounts of data.
There are two primary uses for iBeacon technology:
Track customers around an indoor environment.
With beacons installed throughout the store, customer movements are tracked by the signal strength each beacon receives from the smart device. Companies use iBeacon technology to track customers around a store in order to better understand customer behavior and use that information to make decisions to create an improved customer experience.
Trigger an action on a customer’s smartphone/tablet depending on the location in the indoor environment.
Beacons installed throughout the store have the ability to send coupons that relate to a customer’s location in the store and more specifically to products in their close proximity. Companies use iBeacon technology to send customers coupons, promotions, or store greetings when they pass the appropriate beacon.
iBeacon technology is similar to GPS technology in that it sends and receives signals and locates the responding device in a defined area. Unlike GPS, beacons will not provide the latitude and longitude. Instead, they work with other beacons to determine the smart device’s location based on which beacon (in an indoor environment) receives the strongest return signal. In order to use iBeacon technology for location, several beacons are needed throughout the area.
When the iBeacon’s signal reaches each phone, it can be used to send the user coupons, promotions, or store information through different apps. Several companies are using this technology – but they are not all using them in the exact same way.
The company that developed the iBeacon technology uses beacons in its retail stores to send consumers information relating to purchasing or repairs. A beacon is stationed near the front of each Apple store entrance which sends a signal out to receivers. If the receiver (smart device) has Bluetooth enabled and iOS 7 or higher operating system, the device will signal back. When the receiver’s device signals back, it triggers an action on the device. That action can be to push a store greeting, promotion, link, or other relevant information.
Replicon is a company that automates time tracking for businesses around the world. Back in 2014, Replicon first announced that they will use Apple iBeacon technology to streamline the process. iBeacon technology helps their clients by eliminating long lines at the clocks, missed punches, and employee abuse that are all too frequent at any workplace. Employees download the iOS or Android Replicon application and beacons at exits and entryways are able to detect and identify each employee when they pass. The Replicon software, application, and beacons calculate employee times and fill in appropriate time sheets that were previously done manually.
Right now, iBeacon technology is still making its way into retail stores around the world. The ability to push coupons straight onto consumer’s smart devices when they enter a store is revolutionary and will continue to grow and expand into other industries.
Undoubtedly, some individuals may have concerns about privacy and security with iBeacon technology, but there are a few ways to “opt out” of these location services and push notifications. You can choose to turn off all location services or only app specific location services. Note: iBeacon technology is only available on smartphones with iOS7 or later.
- Turn your smartphone’s Bluetooth off by going to Settings > Bluetooth > Off
- Turn off location services by going to Settings > Privacy > Location Services. Using this method you can turn off all location services, or just turn on app specific location services.
To learn more about RFID technologies, check out the links below!
iBeacon Guide: The Technology. iBeacon.com
Understanding iBeacon. https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202880