A beacon is a transmitter at a known location, which
emits a continuous or periodic radio signal with limited
information content (for example its identification or
Any radio technology can be used to identify location but
the most relevant technologies from a mobile beacon
perspective are Wifi, Bluetooth and RFID.
Beacons indicate their presence so that enabled devices
can locate them. Each beacon is given a unique identifier.
When a user’s device enters the beacon area, all installed
apps subscribing to this unique identifier
Mobile proximity marketing
Depending on where the customers are in a store, and if they are
As the customer moves to a different location, a new beacon
carrying an enabled device, they will be able to receive messages
in the area will alert them to offers on products they are now in
from the closest beacon. For example, when browsing through a
proximity to. Using mobile beacon technology, customers can
specific section in a store, whether it be footwear or mp3 players,
be contacted and kept informed while in-store to enrich their
the local beacon could share location-specific information on
special offers, interesting facts, targeted promotions and more.
Cinema sunday evening.
No purchases on sales.
Capuccino at Starbucks.
Sushi & Italian restaurants.
Micro-location & user targeting
Knowing a customer’s exact location means it is easier to
of the individual. Not only do we know what they purchase, but
deliver information which is relevant to them at that precise
we know what interests them judging by how long they stay in
moment and context. However, micro-location user targeting
a section, and can identify the factors triggering a purchase.
can go far beyond simple proximity marketing. By being able to
The information collected can then be analysed for a truly
track a consumer’s behaviour, interests and location patterns
personalized, relevant and engaging conversation.
within a store or other business, we can obtain a clearer picture
With micro-location targeting, it is easier to offer users valuable
to their airline desk for check-in. Once at the check-in desks, a
information on navigating large areas such as airports, stadiums
new beacon could provide information on the best route through
or shopping centers. For example, a person arriving at an airport
airport security as well as gate information. Stores, restaurants
they are not familiar with could be guided through it via beacons.
and other locations of interest would also be announced,
A beacon at the entrance could welcome them and direct them
specifying relevant offers where available.
Mobile tour guides
Particularly interesting for museums and cities, a user could be
and relevant information at key attractions as well as the best
guided through the points of interest as well as providing further
routes to take within the city, would add an element of flexibility
information on their visit. With merely their mobile device enabled
and freedom to the user experience. Guided museum tours
to receive beacon communications, the user could forgo city
would operate on a smaller scale in a similar fashion.
guidebooks and focus on exploring the city. Receiving valuable
Mobile hands-free payments
PayPal’s Beacon is a Bluetooth Low Energy USB module for stores
up their preferences for automatic check-ins and approve being
and other businesses allowing consumers to pay hands-free. The
charged for any goods they purchase or consume. Once the
device sets up communication between points-of-sale and mobile
customer enters their preferred business, a vibration notifies them
devices without the use for GPS, wireless or mobile networks.
of their check-in as their photo appears on the merchant’s POS.
Confirmation of verbal payment would complete the transaction
The user has to install the PayPal app on their mobile device, set
with a receipt sent automatically by email.
Tracking & business intelligence
The most controversial but also the most common use case today
spending inside the venue/location” and “where in a store/location
of Wifi beacons is using the data collected by the Wifi hotspots for
people spend most time”. This can be used for everything from
business intelligence. Without users giving permission, the owner
choosing locations and planning store layouts, to understanding
of the Wifi nodes can use it to answer questions like “how many
who the customers are and using those insights to come up with
people walk by a given location each day”, ”what are the busiest
new sales strategies. With user opt-in, the data becomes even
hours throughout the day/week”, “how long is the average person
more accurate and valuable.
How does iBeacon
compare to other
We’ve been comparing technologies for some time now and although we believe iBeacons has the potential to be great, we
don’t think there is a clear winner yet.
Technology soon available with Wifi to
Great accuracy for use with payments
Based on Bluetooth Low Energy4.0 and
be used with all smartphones.
and product information.
available on most new smartphones.
Very low cost of RFID sensors/stickers
Energy consumption much lower then
Not supported by Apple.
Requires an app to be installed and
Requires an installed app by user to
Bluetooth to be running.
20 cm (7.9 inch) range.
Investments in Wifi SW/HW to achieve
Requires new technology/investments
High battery consumption.
and becomes complex to maintain
when you scale up.
Wifi power consumption higher then
* Cisco, Navizon, Meridian, KAIST, WirelessWerx, GISi Indoors, Euclid ...
Requires installation of beacons.
The main technical approaches
There are three basic approaches independent of the technology
Infrastructure based: This uses e.g. the existing Wifi
(Wifi or BLE):
infrastructure (if supported) or dedicated Wifi or Bluetooth nodes.
Device Based: This is the most common approach for outdoor
Hybrid (Device and Infrastructure): Combines all available
location (or to at least locate the building you’re in) as it can easily
location information (Wifi, Bluetooth, GPS, sensors, etc)
be implemented without permission/support from the network.
All 3 technologies are cheap and easy to pilot so try them
out in one location and see what you think, how customers
respond, what the perceived value add is and how the
business case stacks up.
When Apple chose BLE as standard rather than NFC/
RFID, we predicted that the two winning technologies in
North America would be Wifi and BLE whereas NFC still
had a good chance in the rest of the world. NFC may still
play an important role in enterprise in North America as
companies control which devices are purchased.
A new kind of Wifi HW now exists that alters the transmitted
power, making it very difficult to measure and map a wifi
area for triangulation. This complicates the use of general
Wifi for a lot of the core uses described in this presentation.
In conclusion there is no one size fits all. The requirements
for indoor positioning and customer engagement need to
be assessed in each case before a recommendation can
be given. However, even if BLE beacons are the hottest
trend right now, Wifi can often fulfill the same requirements
cheaper and more easily.
Suppliers of Beacons
Since Apple announced iBeacon, 100s of companies have positioned themselves as Beacon
and indoor location and marketing providers. Here are just a few relevant industry players:
BLE Beacons: Entimote, Qualcomm, Roximity and indoor.rs
Wifi positioning and tracking: Cisco, Ariba (Meridian), Navizon and Infsoft
Proprietary Wifi nodes: knock.io
Wifi location databases: Skyhook Wireless and AlterGeo
Fighting for a world
full of mobile solutions