15 Ways to Use Beacons in 2015

Posted by in News & Tech

2014 was the year that everyone got really excited about beacon technology and there’s no doubt that 2015 will be the year it becomes mainstream. There are thousands and thousands of potential applications for the technology, many of which have already been successfully implemented over the last 12 months: see Regents Street, Kew Gardens, National Slate Museum, Macy’s, House of Fraser, Sofaworks to name just a few.

As we begin what will be a very exciting year we’ve put together a quick of 15 ways beacons can be used across many vertical sectors including retail, education, healthcare, events and tourism:

beacons can be used for self discovery#1. Discovery

One of the simplest ways to use iBeacon is on displays, such as point of sale and information points to provide those nearby with content that relates to where they are.  You can control how content is displayed by date, time and even the weather! Different content can be shown depending how close someone is to the beacon and by how long they’ve been near to it, whether they’ve been there before and if they’re are moving away. For example a tourist information spot can inform travellers about what attractions are nearby, how to get there, any special offers and coupons relating to that location plus any events starting at that particular time. Beacons can also be connected together by apps to create a tourist or cultural trail. The same principles can be applied for museums, shops, hospitals, restaurants, schools… the list is endless.

#2. Sharing

In its simplest form, iBeacon technology can be used to transmit content from one device to another.  It works like AirDrop but is persistent – the sharing persists from one app to another until transmission is stopped.  It’s an easy way to share content in meetings, conferences, classrooms and anywhere else where data needs to be shared amongst a group of people that are nearby. Find out how you can do this right now.

retailers are using beacons for customer apps#3. For Selling and Customer Service

Place an iBeacon on a mannequin, sofa, or a car to let potential buyers to find out more about specific products when near to them. You can even use them to entice passers-by to come in-store with special offers and discounts by sending notification alerts to their mobiles. Beacons are being adopted in retail to help shoppers make more informed buying decisions and navigate their way around stores. They’re also being used by stores alongside customer data profiling to up-sell, cross-sell and also to provide a more personalised improved customer service. Customers can even carry a beacon to call upon a member of staff which can be particularly useful when customers have accessibility needs, such as customers with impaired vision (e.g. Barclays Bank)

#4. Influencing Behaviour

Whether it’s to make a purchase, learn about something or go somewhere, beacons are being used to influence the behaviour of those nearby; this is especially effective when beacons are used in clusters. For example, by triggering different information at various beacon points in a museum you can potentially alter the visitor’s path to include a new display or perhaps a survey or donation point.  In the first beaconified town in Beaumaris North Wales beacons are used to encourage visitors to visit all parts of the town (including attractions, restaurants and shops) by implementing a town-wide, beacon reward scheme.

#5. Monitoring and tracking

The potential here is huge.  We’ve seen beacons placed by parents on children to track when they reach home, or when they stray too far away (Nivea). Potentially you can monitor anything such as proximity to a beacon, dwell time, path from one beacon to another, and then use this information to learn out about your places, spaces, customers, visitors, patients, students etc.  In Healthcare, beacons can be used to track a number of things like medicine dispensing, hospital ward entry sanitation and to allow doctors to quickly and securely access the correct records when next to a patient. Beacons are often considered to be a less intrusive and more reliable means of monitoring the elderly and infirm than similar camera-based systems.

#6. Counting

Every beacon interaction can be counted which means they can be used standalone or in groups to collect numerical data and flow profiling.  Examples are cars entering a car park, shoppers in a till queue,  people entering/leaving a building, patients in a waiting area, and attendees at a conference. Whether your motivation for counting is sales, safety or something entirely different, beacons can play a useful and important role.  For example, counting footfall at a particular place in a museum can help you decide where to put your next display.

#7. Education

beacons can be used in education to aid learningThere is great potential for using beacons in schools and Universities.  You can turn a teacher’s device into a beacon and automatically transmit the right content to student’s devices when they walk into a room. Teachers can also create their own beacon self-discovery displays for students to explore with their devices, so instead of students having their heads buried in a device, they can take their device out and about with them and connect with the real-world. Integration with back-end solutions like Google Apps for Education and iTunes U ensure that beacons fit in with existing education platforms, therefore offering real value. See how beacons are being used in SPF Schools in Cambridge, UK.

#8. Automation

Most of the examples here talk about apps that automatically deliver information when next to a beacon. Beacons, however, can also be used to automate mechanical processes like turning on the lights, adjusting the heating, vending a coffee or paying for parking, to manual processes such as checking in for a flight or signing into a building. In most situations where the ‘if this, then that’ rule can be applied,  beacons can be used to make things to happen ‘magically’ just by being nearby.

beacon powered coffee machine#9. Polling and Surveys

For many things like surveys, place and timing is a major factor for success.  Beacons give you the power for ‘in the moment’ feedback from the right people exactly when you need it.  For example, you can use a beacon to conduct a survey at the exit of your museum, or take a real-time poll at a live conference.  Combine this with an instant reward (e.g. fill in this survey to get your free coffee, which is dispensed automatically from a beaconified machine, or brought to you the instant you complete it by an informed assistant) then you’ve got yourself a very slick, successful data collection process.

#10. Taking Payments

Beacons can be used to trigger ‘in the moment’ real-time payments enabling sales to be closed when the time is right e.g. when a customer is sat on that comfortable sofa, or wants to give a donation when at an event. Offering seamless on-the-spot payments will please customers who are in a hurry and some retailers, like Apple, are moving completely away from ’tills in the corner’ retail layouts in favour of more dynamic and self-service payment processes which align perfectly with beacon technology.

#11. With Wearables

beacon apps can send notifications to wearablesThe growth of wearables is great for beacons as they are pushing the widespread adoption of Low Energy Bluetooth in everyday use. Whether it’s a watch, a fitness band or a ‘smart’ item of clothing, connecting the wearable to devices and services that are nearby has very exciting potential.  You could, for example, receive app beacon notifications on your watch, or link your physical activity that day to automatically customise your workout plan, which is beacon-triggered when you enter the fitness gym.

#12. For Groups

Any group of people who get together can use beacons to get more out of that time and place. You could take a beacon with you to a meeting where you can instantly share your contact details, agenda and presentation with anyone in that room, without email and without codes. Alternatively at a networking event a room can identify who is in it and encourage interactions by making introductions automatically based on shared interests or company sectors.

#13. Market Segmentation

The great thing about beacons is that you can ‘layer’ content on them and control who sees what. In a museum, for example you can deliver content for first time visitors, regular visitors, patrons, school children etc. All these different sets of content are all triggered by the same set of beacons, but the user experience is defined by each users’ app and their own unique use of it.

#14. Security

Security always takes a multi-layered approach and the more layers the better! Beacons can add such an extra layer to many security systems to make them much more resilient. For example, if John is carrying a beacon and passes a face recognition camera, the system no longer asks “Whose face is this?” but rather “Is this John’s face?, which performs a much deeper recognition test. Personal beacons can also be useful for determining access to information or log access to areas in a building. On a more general level, the information that can be seen in a beacon app can also be made secure, so that only those with the correct login credentials at that location can see it.

#15. Fun

iBeacon app content doesn’t have to be a just a coupon or a special offer – far from it! Apps can be used to deliver videos, images, games, puzzles and quizzes, that are pertinent to a specific location. You could give a beacon as a gift, which automatically ‘opens’ some content in an app on a specific date such as voucher on a birthday. One of the first uses for beacons and still one of the best is for treasure hunts, where users reveal clues by visiting beacons in a specific order. Find out how to create you own treasure hunt.