Apple made their first move into the IoT (Internet of Things) with iBeacons over two years ago. A number of forward thinking retailers and others have been experimenting with the technology with mixed success.
For those who are not aware, iBeacon’s transmit a unique ID via Bluetooth, which can be picked up by phone with the appropriate app installed within a 15m radius. So far, the predominant use-case is beacons broadcasting contextual information and offers for products in-store. Of course, there are many other innovative ways to deploy them.
The main barrier to mass take up has been the need to install a specific app to pick up the beacons signal. The downside to this is a multitude of retailer’s apps all fighting for memory space on cluttered phones. Ultimately, this means the possibility of their app biting bullet when a user is low on memory is very likely.
Google’s launch of the open-source Eddystone beacon could change everything. Eddystone allows beacons to be configured to broadcast one of 3 different packets – a unique ID (to connect to an app), a URL or sensor data. Arguably – the most important of these is the URL.
Equally exciting is the news that Google’s forthcoming Android M release could allow phones to pick up beacons signals natively without the need for app. This really changes the game by removing the biggest barrier to mass adoption.
Perhaps Google will eventually launch a second search engine enabling users to selectively search for anything nearby within a 50 radius? This type of hyper-localised search will be a boon in particular for retailers with a channel mix comprising bricks and mortar and online.
One can imagine a massive expansion of business models similar to Argos. Shoppers visit store showrooms where they can inspect goods, learn about their provenance and variants and purchase either in store or somewhere else from their phone. They can then return to the delivery kiosk and pick up the goods at their convenience.
This is of course just one example of a business model that can powerfully realise the potential of beacon technology – and just one step along the road to the forthcoming Internet of everything!