iBeacons: the hidden treasure in iOS 7

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Apple surprised a lot of people with iOS 7, announced in June 2013. One new feature that was presented is iBeacons. In combination with Passbook, iBeacons offer consumers a helping hand during shopping or at an event. With iBeacons, Apple gives marketers and developers the possibility to let the iPhone use a new form of marketing using the technology of today.

What are iBeacons?

An iBeacon is comparable to a radio tower transmitting a signal. When your phone is in reach of a beacon, it will recognise it. Each iBeacon transmits its own signal with a universally unique identifier (UUID).

An iPhone or iPad can be an iBeacon, provided it is running iOS 7 or higher. It is also possible to buy separate beacons, there is a number of them available. Together with you, we can think of uses for beacons in an app. We will extensively test some of these iBeacons to discover the possibilities.

How iBeacons work
How iBeacons work.

How to create an iBeacon in iOS 7?

iOS 7 allows you to create an iBeacon from an iPhone or iPad with Bluetooth LE (Low Energy). A retailer who already uses his iPad on the counter can use his iPad more diversely by using beacons.

iBeacons in practice

Apple is one of the first to use the iBeacon technology with AppleTV. When an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch running iOS 7 is in reach of the AppleTV, the user can log in with his/her Apple-ID. Using an automated setup all user settings are copied to the AppleTV.

Apple TV iBeacons
Apple TV iBeacons

Follow the steps for a third-generation AppleTV and an iPhone with iOS 7 on Apple’s website:Using an iOS device to set up your Apple TV.

How does an iBeacon work?

An iBeacon uses Bluetooth LE (Low Energy), also known as Bluetooth Smart. Bluetooth Smart is energy efficient and excellent for low-range use. An iBeacon sends a signal with its own identity. This way an action can be associated with the signal. When an iPhone receives the iBeacon signal, it can – for example – show a coupon in Passbook.

What is the range of an iBeacon?

The theoretical range of an iBeacon is a 50 meter (55 yard) radius, though this is influenced by its environment. This gives  7854 m² (84496 sq. ft. ) of possibilities – ideal for large surfaces such as events or a shopping district. The range can be limited per beacon, so multiple beacons can work separate from each other.

When we look at the iBeacon range and compare this with GPS, wi-fi and NFC we can clearly see the differences. To give an impression, each section shows a usage example of this technology.

Technology Distance Level
GPS Worldwide Where is the shopping mall?
Wi-Fi 35 meter (38 yd) -100 meter (109 yd) At what store am I?
Bluetooth < 50 meter (< 55 yd) At what department am I?
NFC 0,001 meter (1/25″) What product is this?

What can iBeacons do?

Micro-location based shopping

When you enter a store, you get a message saying there is a special offer on socks: purchase two pair of socks and get the third pair for free. Unfortunately there are only two pair left. Using an iBeacon I leave my address and I get the third pair delivered to my house. Leaving your details becomes very easy for a customer.

Indoor navigation

When you’re at a construction market with a lot of square footage, it usually takes a while to find the right department. iBeacons can help the customer navigate to the right department and go through his shopping list easily. Once at the department, a specific offer can be made using iBeacons. The smartphone gets a notification from the beacon to let the customer know he can get a free set of paint brushes.

Mobile payments with iBeacons

Paying with your smartphone is becoming more and more popular. Paying with iBeacons is one example that PayPal is currently testing. The PayPal Beacon lets you know you want to make a payment and the amount is shown on your screen. When you confirm your order it will be paid with PayPal. You can find more information on PayPal’s Beacon website.

PayPal - Beacon
PayPal – Beacon

In-store promotions and Passbook

When a consumer found his way to the store, it is possible to seduce the customer with an in-store promotion. Here you can make a connection with Passbook. A coupon in Passbook can be activated using an iBeacon and give a notification of this offer. You can also create a discount that is only available in the store, thereby making it easier to compete with web shops. Creating coupons for Passbook is possible using Bindd.

Possibilities for marketeers

People who focus on e-commerce, conversion optimisation and customer experience can get started right away. The numbers tell the tale, right? By using iBeacons there are new possibilities to get customers excited during shopping and to collect data to enhance the customer experience.

Measure shopping behaviour using indoor gps

How long does someone stand in front of the shelf before the shampoo bottle goes into the shopping basket? It may sound like a fairytale but it can be measured. Using iBeacons you can determine the position of a customer inside the store. This way you can analyse walking patterns of your customers, or see if the layout of your shop is optimal.

iBeacons heatmap
iBeacons heatmap

Because a signal is received at all times, this data can be made into a heat map. A map of the store immediately shows where customers spend the most time or what route they take.

NFC and iBeacons

NFC chips can be found in many Android devices, for example the Google Nexus phone. By holding your phone next to another NFC chip they can communicate. This way you can redeem a coupon or make a mobile payment, for example. Of course, your phone needs an NFC chip to be able to do this, something all iPhones until now don’t have.

iBeacons are Apple’s answer to NFC. The technology is already in use in heart rate monitors that can transfer data to smartphones energy efficiently.

The difference between NFC and iBeacons

The main difference between NFC and iBeacons is its range. An NFC chip can be hidden in a sticker or keychain and does not need a battery. Because of this, its range is minimal and only works when a smartphone is held near the chip. iBeacons have a much larger range and as such are more flexible in its use.

Want to use iBeacons?

A lot is possible with iBeacons and iOS 7 kicked it off. The first apps to use iBeacons can now be found in the App Store. We like to help you with the many possibilities of iBeacons. Using this new technology brings the shopping experience of 2020 one step closer.

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