Each new year brings new technological innovations and we can already see the trends that are starting to emerge this year. Mobile technology has been reshaping the way people do business for some time now, allowing better communication and easy access to information. A device that has been around for some time, but just now starting to make headlines are the little devices known as `beacons”. They were first introduced by Apple back in 2013 as iBeacon. Google soon followed up with its device as part of a project distributing free devices to business to improve mobile visibility and experience. Beacons are small wireless transmitters that use a low-powered Bluetooth technology to send signals to any smart device within the area.
It Failed to Take Off
When it was first introduced, it did not garner as much attention as the developers thought. However, Google hopes that this technology will help bridge the gap between the physical and virtual space. The beacon that Google built was using open-source technology so that third-party developers can develop new technology around it. It will greatly help in improving the global accuracy of GPS, which is limited to a radius of 11 feet.
The reason that it failed to take off during its initial launch is that many people experienced many technical difficulties and in implementing it, they also lacked serial numbers and did not integrate properly with one another. But probably, the biggest issue with these devices was the poor notification strategies and a large number of irrelevant local information. Since then, Google has made updates to the original beacon addressing development and implementation issues. The updates that have been made include the possibility of adding more than one action to a single beacon and it is now able to support many different interactions that can be programmed via a dashboard and does not require any hard coding.
Micro Location and Accuracy
This results in a much easier and accurate location-based search and service. This technology has been and continues to be implemented in public areas such as museums, hotels and also healthcare systems to be able to offer better services to people. Because IoT devices are slowly being implemented in many parts of our lives, it can be used in combination with beacon technology. Their main use is to engage people with local points of interest and services. The year 2020 will mark the deployment of 400 million beacons across the world. All of these beacons are BTL, also known as Bluetooth low energy, and an important feature that allows the beacon to use little energy and for long periods, often years without the need to change the battery.
A fair question that is asked by many is how much of a difference is between a beacon and regular GPS. While they may pose many similarities, the way technology is used is different. The GPS consists of 3 main parts. A satellite, a ground station and receivers. The satellites that are used for the GPS carry a very precise atomic clock that is essential for the GPS to be as exact as possible. They are synchronized with the clocks on the ground and these are synchronized daily to match the ones on the satellites. 32 GPS satellites are orbiting around Earth that help to offer more precision. No matter where the receiver is located on the ground, at any moment there are 4 satellites in line of sight of the receiver.
Calculating the distance between the receiver and satellite is done by measuring the time when the signal was sent from the satellite and the time that the signal reached the receiver. Because GPS relies on satellites, any obstruction in between can interfere with its function. Clouds, interior spaces can lead to a loss of signal and render the GPS temporarily unusable. Beacons hold many advantages over GPS, a major one being the possibility of being used in interiors and combining the 2 results a powerful micro-location technology. A great interior usage for this would be a large warehouse or shopping centre and can help in pointing people to what they are interested in, as well as guiding employees to what they are looking for. Another example would be receiving notifications in a hotel or a restaurant during certain situations regarding the needs of the clients.
Other entertainment venues such as casinos can also greatly benefit from this technology to provide the best customer service possible. Because they work well in interiors, they can help guide the new players throughout the casino and the only thing needed is having the Bluetooth turned on the device. The interior of casinos are usually filled with slots and table games in each direction and for a first-time guest, it can be daunting navigating throughout the interior without assistance. Casinos can also implement beacons for security purposes as well and meet the needs of each customer.
These are just some of the ways if beacon technology is used and could be used to enhance the experience of people and improve businesses. It makes it easier for people to find what they need and when searching for a store or in museums where the technology can help provide more context for visitors. A few known places around the world that use beacons are The Philips Museum in Eindhoven and the National Slate Museum in Wales. More creative use of the technology is in the Silesian Museum where they developed a scavenger hunt for people
to partake that allows visitors to collect points based on how many things they discover in the museum, a great example of using beacons for education.