A beginner's guide to beacon technology
The beacon breakthroughBeacon technology has been around for a couple of years already (or, to be more precise, since 2013 when Apple introduced its iBeacons) but it’s now getting close to a breakthrough – at least, if we can believe the numbers that are floating around, that is. According to a Business Insider report, beacon technology is forecast to drive 44 billion dollars in sales to retailers this year. In addition, ABI Research predicts that more than 400 million beacons will be shipped in the next five years, mostly for use in retail stores.
What are beacons exactly?A promising outlook, but many companies still seem to be in the dark about what beacons exactly are. Well, beacons are mostly used for indoor positioning and navigation, where GPS and Wi-Fi aren’t always effective. Equipped with Bluetooth Low Energy, beacons are transmitters that consume little power yet still enable smartphones to determine their location (the typical range is 50 meters). When beacons are placed in a store, for example, they detect nearby smartphones and can send alerts and data to them – e.g. ads, coupons or supplementary product information – providing, of course, that the consumer has been willing to opt in to such communication via the retail store’s app.
Beacons everywhereRetail is without doubt the industry that will be impacted the most by the introduction of beacon technology on a larger scale. The main driver is the digitization of consumer habits, which is forcing retailers to extend the online shopping experience all the way to their brick-and-mortar stores. The benefits are clear: enhanced engagement and greater insights into in-store behavior of shoppers and employees alike.
But retail isn’t the only industry exploring the use of beacons. The energy sector, airports, healthcare, hospitality, transportation, banking and more are all looking into it as well as a way of offering a more dynamic user experience (whether for external or internal customers), of better streamlining operational processes or of enhancing employee safety. Companies in the utilities sector, for example, could envisage automatically transmitting safety instructions to their field service technicians whenever they enter a power plant.