The development of the iBeacon was set to change the face of retail as we knew it. Through the use of these small, battery-powered, wireless devices and the utilization of Bluetooth low-energy technology, retailers could advertise not only their presence, but also their services, sales, discounts, and other related materials based on a consumer’s location. The hope was to increase their individual visibility while collecting purchasing habit information and increase brand loyalty – a one-stop in monitoring and utilization. This initial launch was a clear demonstration that the technology works and does hold value, but perhaps not as initially intended.
Now, looking to the future and alternate uses, we are slowly unlocking the beacon’s potential and how this reaches beyond the mall and department store. One such way is through access. The use of iBeacons allow us the liberty to move away from club cards, access cards, and other fob devices – liberating us from having to develop, assign, and carry these devices.
Beacons are also useful when attempting to locate things whether finding an item, person, or place. Companies or individuals could use beacons to plan more effectively and can even use beacons in warehouses where locating specific items is a key operational component – think equipment rental, purchasing, etc.
On a personal use level, these could assist with locating frequently misplaced items and help keep you organized. When locating people or individuals, beacons allow us to connect and could be used to set last minute meetings, pinpoint the lost or missing, or even for social activities such as dating or lunch buddies. Looking at a much larger scale, the technology can be used to track locations on vast sites not only for productivity, but also for safety and compliance.
Networking devices via Bluetooth is another way to use a beacon and could be used in the household to connect to other devices including security systems, thermostats, doors, locks, computers, cameras, cooking devices, home appliances, and much more making it a valuable home management tool. Imagine being able to prepare your office or conference room for a morning meeting while finishing breakfast at home or on the subway commute in or checking to be sure you shut off the dryer or crockpot while driving to grandma’s house for dinner. These are just some of the basic possibilities available using this technology.
Wayfinding whether indoors or outdoors, which is currently a luxury that is not available to all, is yet another way to use beacons. Applications such as Aware have made this type of wayfinding a reality. The Aware iBeacons help users understand where they are based upon specific location in proximity to set beacons and direct them from where they are, to where they need to be, all while on the move. These customizable beacons can push information including text, maps, turn-by-turn directions, site features, and allow users the freedom to spend more time working or enjoying their surroundings while spending less time wandering or searching.
These are just a few ways that beacons have evolved over time and examples of how beacons and their ecosystems have such incredible potential to alter how we perform tasks whether at home, the office, or anywhere else we can imagine.