This sponsored post is produced in association with Mobile Programming.
If you’ve been following any mobile developments in the last year, you know that iBeacons are poised to be the next next thing. Since Apple introduced the technology a year ago, the buzz has been huge, and in the last few months, more and more brands, businesses and even ballclubs have been experimenting with it.
The potential isn’t just hype. It’s real. iBeacons are transmitters that use Low Energy Bluetooth technology to enable devices to speak to one another – or to interact with the physical world. And they can do it with micro-locating precision to engage users in their exact vicinity. Every iPhone since the iPhone 4 is already equipped with the technology, and iBeacon transmitters can pinpoint their location from 100 feet down to a few inches.
Retailers like Macy’s, Walmart, and Lord and Taylor are currently doings trials to send deals, discounts and offers to shoppers as soon as they arrive on site while specific brands like Coke are doing the same. NBA and MBL teams are using iBeacons to offer a full interactive experience to fans and enable them to upgrade seats. American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic are testing them at various airports to ease the pain of air travel. And the Tribeca Film Festival used iBeacons this spring to alert film-goers to screening times, buy tickets, and provide a seamless way to give feedback on the movies they loved – or hated.
Caveat: Adoption requires marketer responsibility
The potential is vast but users need to be educated and encouraged to adopt a technology that many still haven’t heard about. For an iBeacon to detect their device, users need to have Bluetooth turned on, and to interact, they need to install the desired app created for its purpose, whether it’s downloading MLB’s At The Ballpark App or Apple’s own retail Apple Store App. In other words, user buy-in and opt-in is required for success.
This means mass adoption will need brands and marketers to use the technology in smart ways. Turning it into an intrusive spam-fest will turn off users and limit use. Early in-roads with haptic alerts to make notifications less intrusive may ease things for consumers. But there remains a huge responsibility among those tempted to see iBeacons as a replacement to the dead-and-buried-QR code to not spoil it by using it in ways that will turn it into marketing wallpaper.
What’s essential: Creativity and Utility
The secret to driving adoption lies in creating simple solutions for big ideas. By anticipating consumer needs and filling them in creative ways. Ways that offer users a true value equation, not simply a sales-driven digital megaphone. Consider these examples:
Exact Editions, a digital publishing company, has devised a way to offer patrons in bars, coffee shops and potentially doctor’s waiting rooms access to digital publications via iBeacons. Reading a desirable magazine on your device can be a lot more satisfying with your latté than rifling through a left-behind newspaper missing the sections you want. It’s currently being trialed at Kick Bar in the U.K.
Museum use cases are already popping up around the world. Interactive guides are an obvious use, and iBeacons improve on this by not only serving up information based on a visitor’s precise location in the facility, but also based on the user themselves, i.e. delivering age-specific information depending on whose iPhone it’s interacting with. However, The Philips Museum in the Netherlands took this one step further and in June introduced an iBeacon interactive game challenge that’s played in groups of 2, 3 or 4. Using iBeacon’s location precision, visitors are given an iPad on arrival, and challenged to find and uncover certain information – turning a mandatory family outing into an amazing-race-style adventure.
Japans’ eyewear maker Tzukuri is about to pre-sell sunglasses that will use iBeacon technology to make sure you never leave your shades behind. Your iPhone will simply ping you when you and your pair are parted: You’ll get an automatic alert at 16 feet, and further notifications at 32 and 50 feet unless you clear it. (And yes, the app intelligently turns off when you’re at home or at work.)
iBeacons for B2B
Consumers appear to be the low-hanging fruit, but use cases for business are also burgeoning. For example, take the conference and event industry.
While this year’s Tribeca and SXSW used the technology to offer info and interactive audience features, the Cannes Lions Festival iBeacon app showed how iBeacons can be used at events for significant business purposes. The “Around Me” feature in the event’s app enabled attendees to find one another and was integrated with their LinkedIn profiles. It’s not hard to see how this can totally transform the event and conference experience for both attendees and exhibitors to make relevant connections, not to mention the ability for exhibitors’ displays to interact with those in their vicinity.
And companies like Mobile Programming are already exploring use cases for iBeacon technology that can be deployed on an enterprise level with companies such as SAP. Interest is definitely high from several business sectors including logistics and transportation. One interesting use case Mobile Programming is currently protoyping is for the car auto industry, facilitating far more efficient engagement and meaningful conversations between dealers and sales reps.
iBeacon really is nothing short of inspiring for the potential it’s unlocked. Dozens of iBeacon use cases are emerging, and hundreds and thousands more are within reach. And the recent buzz that Apple itself is building their own iBeacon hardware (previously supplied by third-parties) is bound to accelerate both business and consumer adoption.
However, the challenge now is for developers and marketers to use the technology wisely so beautiful ideas can live – and users will be eager to adopt it rather than ignore it.
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