James Senior, Ratio
2015 – The Rise of the Location-Specific Experience
In twelve short months since the word “iBeacon” showed up on a slide at WWDC 2013, this location-based tech – using Bluetooth low energy (LE) - has sucked all the oxygen out of the location-tech room (yes, it is a real room). Despite all the coverage, beacons remain one of the most misunderstood technologies of 2014. As a digital agency, Ratio cares about multi-endpoint solutions that seamlessly connect clients with customers. That’s why we’ve been experimenting with beacons to understand this exciting, yet shifting ecosystem and opportunities for location-specific experiences.
Your location toolbox
Are beacons the be-all and end-all in location technology? Not by a long shot. Instead, think of iBeacons as one tool at your disposal when creating location-specific experiences. The larger toolkit includes iBeacons, near field communication (NFC), WiFi, GPS, Cellular, etc. Each flavor has its own advantages and limitations depending on the situation. Let’s be clear, there is no one silver bullet for location, which is why mobile platforms are providing all of the technologies in many devices, capable of adapting to the situation in which a user finds themselves. If successful, location-driven experiences will work seamlessly no matter which sensor input is used.
The smartest, dumbest device
In its purest form, the iBeacon is a device with a watch battery and a Bluetooth LE stack that emits small amounts of fixed data. In the simplest iBeacons, this data is a unique identifier and is transmitted on a regular interval, say ten seconds. That’s it.
The real magic is in the software, where the mobile operating system intercepts the message and checks if any installed apps claim ownership for the iBeacon (based on the ID). Everything else – content, beacon configuration & setup etc. – is managed in the cloud. Now of course, there are beacon manufacturers that are innovating beyond the original spec, adding different sensors like temperature gauges and accelerometers – all designed to differentiate from the crowded (and low margin) beacon market. The interesting intellectual property is in the cloud where business owners, marketers and IT departments will manage and maintain their beacon infrastructure and tie it in with other consumer and business ecosystems.
In our work with iBeacons so far, we’ve pushed the user experience hard with respect to providing entirely different views and screens for varying locations. For example, should a shopping app behave differently if the user opens it in their kitchen? Should it behave differently in the supermarket? The answer is absolutely! This is an exciting proposition because the core experience has the opportunity to evolve beyond the standard app and existing design paradigms today. Location-based technology has been in a state of maturation for the last few years, with iBeacons rounding out a toolkit of boasting capabilities that encompass indoor, outdoor, near and far.
To infinity and beyond!
As we move into 2015, the stage is set for these new technologies to shift location-sensitive experiences into the forefront of app developers’ minds. For publishers, brands and marketers, the evolution means greater opportunities to engage with customers in new, more relevant ways in order to provide more value for everyone involved.
More at http://bit.ly/SoDABeacon
About the Author: Working closely with clients, James helps them build long-term digital strategies that drive growth and positive outcomes for the business. His experience across web, desktop & mobile platforms in business, design and technical roles allow him to provide a unique approach to experiences and innovation.