Since the introduction of iBeacons, first mentioned at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference almost a year ago, we’ve begun to get a peek at different use cases. The protocol for dedicated hardware devices is Apple’s way of getting data to users in ultra-specific locations without relying on GPS or other battery-draining technologies.
When Apple announced the technology with the inclusion of iOS 7, it gave the company a way to sidestep a dedicated NFC (near field communication) chip while still being able to offer its benefits. In addition to wireless payments, iBeacons are also capable of everything from triggering reminders to indoor location routing.
Looking back over the last year, where are iBeacons beginning to show up?
Apple stepped up to the plate pretty quick to implement its own iBeacons across all its 250+ retail stores. Currently it uses the devices to assist customers—if the Apple Store app is installed—while they’re moving between different sections of the store.
inMarket has been moving fast with iBeacons and was the first third party to roll out the technology nationwide in the U.S. It started with select grocery store chains at the beginning of 2014.
The company provided the data that after only a few months it found that users who receive a geofence push in-store are 2.7x more likely to use that app than those who don't receive one.
Today, the company is announcing its partnership with the Gannett-owned app Key Ring to bring the technology to an even wider audience.
Walking into a store associated with Key Ring, users will get reminders, coupons, and other info from the app right on the lock screen. Having the app automatically remind you instead of you having to remember to use it was the scenario CEO Chris Fagan tells FastCo.Labs his app was meant for.
"What I wanted to build in the beginning was just a coupon app, where you could walk into a mall, it would instantly know you were in a mall and it would present you deals and offers available. When I started looking at it I thought, ‘this is really interesting,’ but the technologies just weren’t there," Fagan says. "Now coming full circle, we actually have these really sophisticated geo-fencing solutions in the form of beacons that are now here."
inMarket also worked with Conde Nast to bring the iBeacon technology to its app Epicurious. The integration enabled reminders for ingredients and food items while in the grocery store.
Motorola’s new indoor positioning system called MPact includes iBeacon technology as well as Wi-Fi. Unlike competitors, however, MPact with iBeacon will allow information to be pushed to customers not connected to the guest network.
Talking with TechTarget, Motorola explained the addition of multiple technologies in its hardware.
Retail businesses need to be able to connect with end customers who may or may not be using the [guest] Wi-Fi," said Gary Singh, WLAN product marketing manager for Motorola. "Wi-Fi [is] good for presence-based offerings, but when it comes down to micro-locationing, Wi-Fi could be a very expensive offering, and the granularity is very hard to achieve—a consumer might be on the other side of the aisle with Wi-Fi-based location services, versus where the actual marketing needs to take place.
Setting up shop in London’s Heathrow airport, Virgin Atlantic is beginning to test iBeacons. The example given by Re/Code about the implementation was a notification for currency conversion when flyers passed by the shop.
Virgin is using beacons sourced from Estimote, a 2012 startup funded by Y Combinator, Andreessen Horowitz, and BetaWorks, among others.
Major League Baseball has long been embracing new technology and the 2014 season is no different. Between 20 and 30 baseball stadiums will get iBeacons, and if the iPhone user has the MLB At The Ballpark app installed when they go to a game, they will "check in" automatically.
Engadget describes some other uses as well:
Generally speaking, iBeacon strategy is controlled by MLB: The league tells teams where to place the hardware and what sorts of stuff can be sent to folks who check in using the technology. For now, that means fans get a welcome message when they check in, and maybe an offer to upgrade their seat or get a discount on concessions.
The Golden State Warriors were the first NBA team to include the iBeacon technology. The use case here was to notify fans walking to the cheapest seats about ticket upgrade options to get closer to the action.
The Super Bowl stadium this year also included iBeacons, again, mostly an experimental way to fully use the technology. It was simple things like finding the closest entryways and retail experiences fans were receiving notifications about.
iBeacons inside Walmart stores would be huge news, unfortunately right now it’s still in the retail chain’s testing lab. But that does mean you shouldn’t be too surprised if Walmart does eventually announce widespread support.
The Tribeca Film Festival used iBeacons this year to assist attendees with finding theaters, movie times, and other offers.
But as The Guardian points out, the problem for iBeacons might not be anything more than making sure the easily implemented tech isn’t wasted on superfluous things. Annoying consumers is one of the quickest ways to destroy something potentially useful.