As technology advances, organizations are feeling the need to be more and more connected with the customer to increase user experience. Apart from user experience, they also want to keep a track on the customer habits so as to utilize them for targeted marketing. With this aim in mind, there is a lot of innovation happening and “iBeacon” is one of them. There are lot more Beacons being developed by many companies for both iOS and Android, but to keep it simple, we will focus on iBeacon for now.
What is an iBeacon?
iBeacon, as the name contains an ‘i’, definitely is developed by Apple. It is a Bluetooth low energy (BLE) device, that is specifically designed to connect iOS devices, to provide a location based information and services. It enables apps on iOS7+ based smartphones and tablets to connect and perform actions when they come in close proximity to an installed iBeacon. How does it work? iBeacon works along with a customized app on your iOS device, specifically designed and developed to listen to the signals being broadcasted by iBeacon. An iBeacon categorizes the broadcast based on whether the user has entered, exited, or lingered in the region where iBeacon is installed. Apple has categorized the distance between iBeacon and receiving iOS device into 3 distinct ranges:
- Immediate – Within a few centimetres
- Near – Within a couple of meters
- Far – Greater than 10 meters
Based on the distance between iBeacon and actual devices, apps can be instructed to perform different actions on the user devices. As per wiki, iBeacon can be configured as below
iBeacons come with predefined settings and several of them can be changed by the developer. Amongst others the rate and the transmit power can be changed as well as the Major and Minor values. The Major and Minor values are settings which can be used if you want to connect to specific iBeacons or if you want to work with more than one iBeacon at the same time. Typically, multiple iBeacon deployment at a venue will share the same UUID, and use the major and minor pairs to segment and distinguish subspaces within the venue. You can for example set the Major values of all the iBeacons in a specific store to the same value and use the Minor value to identify a specific iBeacon within the store.
How can iBeacons be useful for Organizations and individuals? There are various ways travel and transportation industry can use iBeacons to improve user experience. Some of the real world use cases can be
- Hotels can implement iBeacons in premises to provide indoor mapping. In case of any emergency, guests can be guided to a safe place.
- While visiting an airport, iBeacons paired with an app can keep a track of your movement within the airport. The app can guide you to the right direction based on your boarding pass.
- You are a very frequent traveller with an airlines. As you approach to the checkin counter, the Agent receives an alert with your image, name and status level. (S)He signals you and calls you by name to invite you to help you in checkin quickly.
- If your tagged baggage comes within iBeacon threshold configured in your app as it arrives on the airport, alert is triggered on your phone and you can take your baggage without looking at tags of other suitcases.
These are just few use cases, but industry is aggressively waking up with the plans to utilize iBeacons to get more connected to the consumers and improve customer satisfaction. As per SITA Labs “iBeacon technology has a great potential to trigger better passenger experiences in airline and airport apps“. Virgin Atlantic has started trials to improve Upper Class passengers experience at Heathrow airport using this technology. It would be good to wait and watch and see how industry finds more and more uses of this technology! Not only Apple, but there are lots of other companies that want to evolve this technology further and are involved in developing BLE enabled beacons. Some of them are
- Accent Systems
- April Brother
- Gimbal Series 10
- Radius Networks
- RedBear Lab
In this blog the focus was more to understand the iBeacon. In the next blog, I will start with the testing part of iBeacons and it’s surrounding apps and will try to uncover some of the nice to know things for the testing world :).