What is a Beacon?
A Beacon is a technology, often looking like a mini square (about 3cm2), able to communicate with mobile apps via Bluetooth. It works on apps running on iOS or Android devices.
Bluetooth (or BLE – Bluetooth Low Energy – to be specific) allows a device to transmit information to another device. For instance, this technology is used to play music on wireless headphones or speakers, over a short distance.
In other words, Beacons will allow a contextual communication between two devices when they are close enough (a few meters up to a few dozens meters) for a Bluetooth connection to be made.
Targeted information – How does it work?
Beacons will, at set intervals, broadcast, via Bluetooth Low Energy, small packages of data. These packages of data will be collected by devices (like a smartphone or a tablet) where a mobile app is installed. When the device enters the zone where the Beacons transmit information, it will collect it. The app installed on the device then triggers an action like push a message, or an access to a unique content (image, music, video, text, etc.)
Enhance customers loyalty and experience – How to use it?
Beacons can transmit data triggering any action on a mobile app. Beacons offer access to a unique contextualized content to a targeted public. It is an opportunity to build a relation with your clients. The app will communicate with your clients as they have downloaded your app.
Used for targeted marketing: imagine your client walking in your shop and receiving infos about a particular product s/he likes or a personal voucher. The targeting can be effective with any kind of information previously recorded in the app (gender, age, any kind of preference).
For example, in my grocery store, when I approach the biscuits shelves, I get a special voucher for new biscuits! The Beacon on the biscuit shelf triggers the app installed on my mobile phone and offers me a voucher, because I set a few preferences about my nutrition habits in the app proposed by the store.
Visiting an exhibition, I can access data when I am in front of a piece of art. Or as a tourist in a city, I receive information when coming across a point of interest. I am then through the city for a special walk according to my interests.
It could enhance my experience at a concert, a conference or a sport event, as I could access part of the performance or off stages video that I could share.
Examples of famous apps running on Beacons
Music: CUTS – Montreux Jazz Festival
The Kudelski Group developed CUTS – an app running with Beacons. This app will allow the user to access a unique content: the last 30 seconds of a concert in Full HD, and allow him to send it to the person of his choice.
Beacons were placed in the venues of the Montreux Jazz Festival. It does not matter if the user is in the Montreux Jazz Lab, the Auditorium Stravinski or the Montreux Jazz Club. The Beacons will communicate with the mobile app installed on the smartphones of the user, recognise the time and place and allow him access to a dedicated content (the last 30 seconds of concert).
Sport: At the Ballpark app
This is an american app, used in several major Baseball Stadium. Beacons are placed in the Stadiums and offer valuable information to enhance the fans experience. For example, it leads the fan to his seat, help him avoid the crowded places or offer him vouchers and promotions.
Museum: Rubens House Antwerp
An app running on Beacons offers museums different advantages. First of all, it is cost-saving. It automatically checks in visitors at the entrance of the venue. As many visitors have a private mobile phone and often private headphones, it could spare the museum the necessity to lend this material. Visitors would use their private device as a guide.
Visitors would have an enhanced experience as the app provides hyper-targeted information leading the visitor though his visit in the museum. It offers visitors exclusive content that they would not be able to access otherwise.
In addition, such an app provides valuable information about the behaviors of visitors: where do visitors stop? What do they listen to? Do they walk around in circle or follow the museum map?
Read Nicolas Dougoud's, one of our mobile developer, article in ICTJournalabout Beacons.