Gadgets

In a war zone, iBeacon app developers working to change the way you order food

Above: Left to right: Denys Budelkov, Ivan Murzak and Artur Kiulian

Image Credit: Latio

Even in a war zone, a young team of hip developers are hard at work designing and testing new apps for iBeacon.

At least that’s the case in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, where the three member team at Latio are running extensive tests at some of the city’s trendy eateries in order to fine tune their restaurant app that they say will revolutionize the way people access virtual menus and order food.

“The situation here is difficult, but we’re still working on our project,” Latio founder and chief Artur Kiulian told VentureBeat via phone from Kiev Thursday.

Kiulian was pointing to the war raging in the east of the country, where government forces are battling secessionists with small arms, artillery, and helicopter gun ships in order to stave off an armed movement whose members want to carve out a new territory beholden to Moscow.

“With our app, we need to provide more value for customers. But we do believe we’ve minimized the friction for integrating the app in restaurants.”

With two restaurants as the guinea pigs, Kiullan and his team made some interesting discoveries about consumer tastes, including whether they would be comfortable ordering using the iBeacon technology. Their research indicates that, without question, iOS is a much better position to function than Android within the iBeacon ecosystem.

Some of their findings, as spelled out by Latio, indicate:

“That about 15 percent of iOS users in the study had BLE turned on when opening our app, 80 percent of people turned on BLE by our request. About 60 percent of users kept BLE turned on after app usage. Eight percent of iOS users had no BLE support.

About 8 percent of Android users had BLE turned on when downloading our app, about 50 percent of users turned it on by our request and about 40 percent kept it on. About 35 percent of Android users had no BLE support.

That is that sort of data that not many companies reveal simply because it shows the real status of the BLE ecosystem. Many users still don’t believe that bluetooth low energy doesn’t drain battery and there’s still a lot of people who have no support of it.”

One of the problems faced by the Latio team was that while many of the city’s younger residents have embraced iBeacon technology, most don’t even know what it is. Convincing the two restaurants to help with the study was relatively simple, Kiulian said.

The study worked like this. When users of the Latio app walked by the two joints with the iBeacon’s, their phones were pinged a welcome, and then users received a menu. But more work needs to be done on the app, and the developers are heading back to the drawing table to fine tune it.

“We need to provide more details for the user, like providing special deals and better reasons why they should eat there. We need a better conversion rate, and we see a really big market for iBeacon,” Kuillan said.

In a post-mortem, Latio’s developers disclosed:

“Of course you can just send push notification to every person who walks by, we tried that and it just didn’t work. We’ve been sending invitations and special deals from restaurants to people walking by. It was very hard to convert people even with the most awesome deal waiting for them. That gave us another hint, that we can’t and we shouldn’t try to make people do what they don’t want to do, we have to enhance their experience while knowing their context.

So we tried another thing, we provided values to customers who approached the restaurant and made it easy to check out prices and menu right away, without any search and friction, it just showed up. And it worked, people seemed to browse menus and those were the people who wanted to visit those restaurants.”

The ubiquitous iBeacon is actually a portable, low-cost transmitter that notifies other iOS 7 devices of its presence. About 30 company’s make iBeacon’s, Kiullan said. Produced mainly for iOS, Android OS’s can receive adverts from iBeacons, but they can’t transmit them. So there’s limitations there.

The iBeacon has won raves because of its low power signatures and rapidity of sending push notifications to Apple hardware like the iPhone, iPad, and even iPods. The uses for iBeacon are almost unlimited, and the technology is only now starting to gain traction thanks to forward-thinking app developers, like Latio, for example.

Apple products, in particular the iPhone, are wildly popular in Kiev, and Latio’s app is developed specifically for it.

“Things are changing very quickly, Kuillan said. “Hopefully 2014 will be the dawn of internet of things and iBeacon will be that missing link to it.”

At the end of the day, Kuillan and his small team learned plenty.

“You need to brainstorm a lot on the possible iBeacon functionalities for your app because it’s not just a spammy deal notifier, it is an experience, and to keep people using it you really need to provide the value of that experience.”

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