Mysterious thing. In 80’s movies it’d be probably some kind of a gadget that would belong to aliens or highly developed civilization. Futuristic look brings to mind Clark Kent’s artefacts from “Smallville”, team from “Stargate” or CSI equipment.
Yes. Civilization at the gates.
When we hear “beacon” we might think many things. Beacon as a lighthouse, radio waves, road signs or symbol of hope. But not so long ago it gained another meaning. Now it’s also a name for a small device which dispalys on your smartphone some information. It’s so small that you’d be able to fit it on a grown man’s hand. It can be installed on the wall, on the table or any other surface. Beacon transmits small amount of data and it’s powered by tiny batteries which are able to work 2 or 3 years. Some of them, which are using minimal amount of energy does not require changing battery at all!
At present the cost of three beacons is around $99. You can also buy “stickers”, which are beacons too, but smaller, which you can stick to some mobile objects (e.g. laptop).
How to use it?
As a regular user you don’t have to do much. It’s enough if you just turn bluetooth on and install an application in which you are interested in. That’s all.
That’s the key question. Why does someone invented it and what can you use it for?
We talked about movies. Let’s go back to that. Do you remember “Minority report”? Main character was identified by eyescanners during the walk through the corridor full of advertisements which were litteraly calling his name to get his attention. Nowadays, we don’t need eyescanners. All we have to do is to have a smartphone with bluetooth on and installed application to get personalized commercial.
In my opinion, advertisment are not so bad unless they offer me something which truly interest me. If I get a message that this lovely dress I saw on display the other day and great pair of shoes are cheaper and with mobile voucher I can buy it with 50% discount – I’m your man. But if shops will start sending me too many notifications, I’d rather feel discourage. Although, I’m quite aware of the fact that isn’t the fault of the device, but rather too agressive marketing. Luckily, even if some company would try this silly idea of sending a few messages every single day to their potential customer, this person simply uninstall application of this company considering them as a “spam deliver”. This guy won’t be their client for a long, long time…
Beacons installed in cafes and restaurants allow you to collect loyalty points, which can grant you fancy bonuses and discounts. When you buy a coffee in the same favourite cafe, you (or a cashier) approach your smartphone near the mounted beacon and this way you’re getting some points with every purchase, which later you’d be able to change for free coffee, a sandwich or a cookie.
There is one more thing that I’m wating for to spread. In some restaurants in the United States, you don’t have to wait for a waiter to come. You put your tablet or smartphone in certain place, you order what you want to eat and you’re just waiting for a meal to arrive. This is a perfect way to avoid situation, when waiter asks me if I have enyojed the meal and I look like that:
If you have this device you can find your lost pet, keys or… your child (if you lost one 😀 ). Some time ago Nivea started their famous campaign. Instead of sample of a new creme, they decided to add to an advertisement as a wristband with beacon inside that could be ripped out of a magazine and be used for a child-tracking connected with application which warned parents if their kids strayed too far away.
We do have GPS and navigation devices in our cars. Now it’s time for navigation inside building. Thanks to mounted beacons we have indoor positioning system which helps us easily find ourself. When visiting a building (airport, office building, exhibition hall etc.) for the first time, orientation may be difficult. Direction signs and static plans often don’t provide us the help we need to find a specific location. That’s why iBeacons (for Markets, Office Building, Exhibitions etc.) might be helpful. Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow has prepared a mobile app designed to help visitors plan their visit to the Museum and serve as a guide around the exhibitions. Thanks to beacons during visit on your smartphone will be displayed some information about presented in the exhibition items as well as additional information and pictures of several dozen of them. An interactive map will facilitate moving around the Museum.
And now something for anti fan of absurdly long queues in government offices. City Hall of Warsaw decided to implement beacons and application which is designed to help disabled people. They can navigate you inside the building and allows you to take a number assigned to you. When its your turn, you get an notification on your mobile. You don’t have to waste the time standing in a long queue. In a meantime, you can take care of other things like shopping.
Where did id come from?
This time it’s not the invention of Americans or Japanese. Beacons were made by two Polish guys: Jakub Krzych i Łukasz Kostka, which started their company “Etimote” in 2012. Nowadays, the main headquarter is in Krakow, but they have their offices in San Francisco and New York as well. They working with huge companies like Apple and startups like NaviParking 🙂
When the revolution comes?
Not so fast. Some people are still quite sceptical about this idea and some people still don’t use smartphones – and the truth is that to implement beacon systems it’s quite neccessary. But in next ten years this minority will be even smaller and there will be a chance for a huge change! Obviously, those who saw the potential in beacons are entrepreneurs, traders and marketers who don’t afraid of new technologies and are willing to invest, that’s why first place where beacons are in common use is connected with shops and shopping centers. For instance, polish Galeria Katowicka is fulled of beacons. You just need to enter to mall, turn your bluetooth on, install Navishopper (application made for Galeria Katowicka) and go for a walk. Approaching to some shops, you will get a notification about sales and discount vouchers.
So, how exactly does it look like?
Summarizing, without technical gobbledegook, we need to install an application of the shop which sells something we like, e.q. a chain of chocolate cafes named “X”. Beacon is installed in a shop. When we enter the shopping center, we turn bluetooth on. When we’re passing by the cafe “X”, application sends us lovely information that our favorite hot chocolate whipped cream with delicious raspberries sauce and ice creams is cheaper today and you can get it with 40% discount. Yes, this is an advertisement channel I approve. They have a loyal customer and I have my favorite chocolate.
The possibilities are endless here. In the future they will help us in government institutions, clinics, museums, shops (payment without approaching to cash register) and even in our houses. And looking at spectrum of these opportunities, we might quote an advertisement from “The Time Machine” – The future is now”.