This is the third in a series of articles on iBeacons (or Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons), describing the current application landscape, by industry sector.
If you need to get up to speed first, check out our introduction to iBeacons, or practical guide.
Real World Applications
Though iBeacon is still a relatively new technology, there have been a number of high profile deployments. We've selected some of these to give a flavour of the different types of application being implemented with iBeacons today.
Many of these share common features and we've tried to highlight unusual or interesting ones. It's clear that many organisations are in a trial phase to establish which features are going to prove compelling and engage customers, whilst not proving too intrusive.
The end goal might be that consumers of all kinds embrace location-aware apps and messaging, so that companies can reap the benefits of the data generated as a side effect. However, right now the focus seems to be on providing or enhancing service and thereby promoting adoption.
It's important to note that these examples all follow a pattern of being specific to a company or organisation, with the requirement that users have installed that organisation's mobile app.
Retail is currently being seen as the major use case for beacons, and it's easy to see why. In practical terms, navigation can be problematic in large stores and shopping malls - providing location-aware assistance is an obvious application.
However, paired with loyalty card data, stores would be able to push offers, suggestions and reminders targeted not only by location, but also by purchase history and buying patterns.
Taking this full circle, if retail venues can successfully promote adoption of such location-aware apps, they stand to gain huge volumes of new data on consumers' in-store habits that can be used to optimise layouts and future promotions.
Apple was a pioneer in this area in 2013, deploying iBeacons in 254 US stores. These worth with the Apple Store app and the focus is on providing customer service - for example, providing additional product info and notifications about Genius Bar appointments or repairs ready for pick up. Apple have said that they do not collect data about customers' movements.
They are currently updating the beacons in their stores - a move that is likely tied to a mobile payments initiative and the release of the iPhone 6.
- House of Frasers is trialling mannequin-mounted iBeacons to provide additional product details to passing shoppers.
- London's Regent Street has iBeacons installed in every store to work alongside a new app as part of the street's modernisation. The app is intended to provide personalised recommendations based on users' brand preferences.
- The Swan Centre was the first shopping mall in the UK to roll out iBeacons. They work in conjunction with a rewards app where consumers can receive points and retailer-specific promotions. The app is also being used to provide real-time analytics.
Food and Drink
iBeacons could guide patrons to their seat, flag that they are seated, offer mobile ordering and payment, and work in conjunction with existing online management systems to streamline processes and enhance data on customer activities.
- Venues in New York are using iBeacons with the Dash app to let visitors manage their own tabs and payment.
- Apple have filed a patent for a restaurant ordering and reservations system.
- McDonalds restaurants in Germany are using iBeacons in conjunction with QR codes and Apple's Passbook to present visitors with offers.
- Virgin Atlantic is using iBeacons at Heathrow to provide personalised services and offers to Upper Class passengers, and envisage further customer service oriented applications.
- San Francisco airport is deploying 500 iBeacons to assist visually-impaired travellers with navigation, hinting at a host of accessibility-oriented applications. There are likely to be many more airport deployments from IT provider SITA.
- Starwood Hotels & Resorts is trying out iBeacon in its hotels to help concierges greet arrivals by name, and allow guests keyless entry to rooms using their iPhone.
Arts and Culture
- The Coachella music festival and SxSW used iBeacons for location-specific notifications and social interactions.
- The Cannes Lions festival used iBeacons to facilitate connections between attendees and provide location-specific details about exhibits.
- Twentieth Century Fox used iBeacons in cinemas in Japan to promote the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past.
- The National Gallery of Australia used iBeacons to create a sculpture scavenger hunt for families.
- Rubens House is using iBeacons to provide additional information and resources about artworks, quizzes, maps and notifications about nearby exhibits.
- Major League Baseball is using iBeacons at 28 parks to let fans check in, collect special offers and access additional content and interactive features.
- Melbourne Cricket Club is using iBeacons to give away free pies! This is likely to be testing the water for other applications of the technology.
- The NFL used iBeacons for promotion around the superbowl.
- Leinster Rugby is the first sports team in Europe to use iBeacons - sending location-specific notifications to fans and offering prizes.
- Nivea used a form of beacon in an innovative campaign that included an app to let parents track their kids as they played on the beach.
- GE have integrated beacons in lightbulbs.
Clearly there are already many applications being built using iBeacons in a range of industries and contexts. However this is only the beginning, and it should also be obvious that there are countless opportunities in diverse areas like education, conferences, accessibility, logistics, people management, healthcare, gaming and public services.
There is evidence that Apple is continuing to support and further the technology, and we'll be looking out for hints amongst the announcements at Apple's iPhone 6 event tomorrow!
In our next post, we're going to take a look at the future of iBeacon...