Sunday, Nov 23 2014

What is Beacon Technology — and How are We Already Using It?

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What is Beacon Technology - And How Are We Already Using It

A relatively new type of technology is making its way into businesses and organizations across the country. Some are referring to beacon technology as “GPS for indoors,” and in effect, that’s what these devices do — though the potential applications for beacons go beyond offering locations and directions.

What are beacons?

Beacons are small, inexpensive pieces of hardware that connect via Bluetooth, enabling them to transmit data directly to mobile devices. As usual, Apple is setting the popularity trend with its iBeacon, but other companies — some of which have been using beacons before Apple launched their version — are already making waves with this technology.

How can beacons be used?

Through the combined use of beacon hardware and specialized software, beacons can be used to locate mobile devices indoors and transmit messages or prompts according to a set of targeted criteria. This enables real-time, segmented in-person marketing for consumers with mobile devices.

The most obvious applications for beacon technology are in retail. Beacons can target shoppers in certain areas of a store and send personalized deals, product information, and more directly to their smartphones or tablets. This technology can also simplify the shopping experience, allowing customers to use a completely contactless payment system that’s tied to their mobile device.

But retail isn’t the only possibility for beacon technology, which has potential applications for enterprise, event organizers, transit systems, and even educational institutions.

One potential barrier to widespread adoption of beacon technology is the required permissions. Retail locations can’t simply send messages to any mobile device that happens to be inside the store. Generally, customers have to enable Bluetooth, permit location services on the relevant beacon app, and opt-in to notifications from the store.

Who’s using beacon technology now?

Apple’s iBeacon is already being used for personalized shopping experiences through a partnership with marketing platform Swirl, which is used in several stores throughout the United States and Canada — including Lord & Taylor, Timberland, Alex and Ani, and Kenneth Cole.

A Silicon Valley-based shopping app called shopkick has used beacon technology since 2009, rewarding users with “kicks” or retail points just for entering certain stores. The shopkick beacon platform is currently used in stores like Target, Best Buy, Old Navy, JC Penney, American Eagle, and more. Brands like Ritz, Levi’s, and Oreo also use shopkick to send alerts that draw customers to their product locations inside stores. Macy’s recently announced an expanded partnership with shopkick that represents the largest beacon deployment to date, with the technology to roll out to 4,000 Macy’s locations — bringing the total number of locations using shopkick to 7,500.

Several other companies are also getting involved in beacon technology. Both PayPal and Qualcomm tend to roll out beacon hardware of their own to compete with the iBeacon, and vendors similar to Swirl, such as Estimote and GPShopper, are offering beacon management and consulting along with software platforms.

With the prevalence of mobile devices, beacon technology provides a convenient new way to direct people — shoppers, students, travelers, and more. To learn more about this technology, or how it pertains to your company, contact the IT experts at The Armada Group today.

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