6:00p.m. You step out of a cab and head towards the stadium. It’s Game day, the day you’ve been waiting for. Red Sox vs. Mets. Your phone begins to vibrates. “Welcome to Citi Field”, you read, along with the game information, and a personalized stadium guide. As you approach the gates your ticket barcode pops-up on your screen and you use it to enter. Now quick directions to your seats appear. You are ready.
Apple’s iBeacon and the applications running on it all sound like something out of a futuristic Sci Fi film, but this innovative technology isn’t from the year 2137; it’s here and already in widespread use. The MLB, for example, has plans to integrate Apple’s new technology into stadiums, enhancing and expanding on the modern game-day experience. Adam Ritter, Senior Vice President of Wireless at MLBAM (Major League Baseball Advanced Media) said, “Our top priority always has been to build technology to support our clubs and fans with an unrivaled experience in these world-class facilities.”
Wrapped in the latest IOS7 update, iBeacon is a positioning system that relies on a bluetooth low energy(BLE) signal. BLE, as the name would suggest, uses less energy than it’s predecessor. This allows for a 3 year life-span using only a coin-cell battery. Additionally BLE tends to be 60%-80% cheaper and like classic Bluetooth, the use of a proprietary network insures reliability without depending on wifi or wireless signal. “What are the downsides?” you might ask. BLE is only effective at sending small amounts of data periodically. This, however, is a plus for iBeacon.
Comparable to Near Field Communication (NFC), iBeacon is used primarily for indoor positioning. With that being said, the potential is enormous, reaching far beyond simple positioning; from finding lost items, giving shoppers deals based on the department they’re in, or giving them direction in-store based on their shopping list. iBeacon.com hit the nail on the head in regards to the importance of such technology:
“With an iBeacon network, any brand, retailer, app, or platform will be able to understand exactly where a customer is in the brick and mortar environment. This provides an opportunity to send customers highly contextual, hyper-local, meaningful messages and advertisements on their smartphones.”
The possibilities iBeacon opens up for marketers, advertisers — and in turn, designers and developers — is enormous. Here are a few examples already hitting the market.
Apple’s own retail spaces are a great example of in-store iBeacon use. At the end of last year, Apple launched the official Apple Store application. Now when customers enter a store, assuming they have the app installed with proper permissions, a screen take-over appears prompting quick functions such as EasyPay, help, support, a gift guide, and more. After browser a short period a prompt to buy accessories straight from your phone popped up. It’s easy to imagine the potential impact such technology would have on users experiences. The best part? Apple is saying this is just the beginning of their in-store app integration.
Lose your glasses? No worries with Tzukuri. These hand-made, Japanese glasses are embedded with bluetooth beacons. The beacons, paired with an app allow for features such as: warning the user when they wander too far from your glasses and the ability to track the glasses on a map to the nearest foot. One can easily imagine applying this to many frequently lost items.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors were the first NBA team to incorporate iBeacon technology into their stadium experiences. Fans in the nose-bleeds now receive messages with deals for better tickets.
Condé Nast’s Epicurious app has also jumped on board the iBeacon platform. By the year’s end a planned 100,000 stores will be iBeacon integrated. By leveraging this new technology the Epicurious app, a recipe and shopping application, has been expanded to now include hyper-localized advertising.
As developers dig into iBeacon apps, we can expect a flood of new applications. Travel Radar is a simple app making baggage claim all the more simple.
As more brands continue to experiment with integrating iBeacon into their consumer flow — and the more developers are working on angles to leverage it — we’ll start to see some real creative and innovative uses for the technology. With iBeacon being only one of the many tools out there, I fully expect brands to advance their digital engagement into a hyper-personalized connection and only a few shops, like my agency, Bakery (obligatory and shameless self-promotion), have prepared for when it happens.
header image courtesy of thoughtworks