October 4, 2013

What are iBeacons and what do they mean for mobile marketing?

Written By Martin Sandhu

We’ve all heard of Near Field Communication (NFC). Even though it hasn’t really taken off, NFC has created a lot of excitement, with the prospect of using it for contactless payments, data exchange or simply in a similar way to QR codes (remember them?).

One feature of iOS7 that Apple hasn’t been shouting about is very similar to NFC, it’s called iBeacons. It’s a new Core Location API that allows any iOS device with a Bluetooth 4.0 chip (also know as Bluetooth Low Energy, or BLE) in it to know where it is in relation to other BLE devices. iBeacons allows devices to talk to each other, relating their location in real time, they clever bit is that it doesn’t require Wi-Fi or GPS to do so.

Currently the technology is being used to allow Apple TV’s to be configured purely with a tap, as opposed to using the physical remote control to set it up when it’s first out of the box…which is great, if you’ve just bought an Apple TV. The technology has some really exciting prospects for the future though, which should make marketers sit up and pay attention.

Setting up other devices
The technology could be used to set up a whole range of devices from a smartphone. For example, if games consoles of the future have iBeacons built into them, you could go round to a friends house and load your profile and settings instantly, simply by using your mobile.

Building iBeacons into cars, household alarm systems and other lockable devices is a smart move, allowing users with iBeacon capabilities to get rid of their bunch of keys and rely further still on their smartphones. We can only imagine how this could raise the price of insurance though!

Hyper-local advertising
Hyper-local marketing is something that has long been on advertisers wishlists. With iBeacons in highstreet stores, advertisers could send messages to customers directly within the vicinity of the store. Targeting them with sales, offers or events that maybe of interest to them.

Ticketing and payments
The buzz surrounding NFC is not unjust, however the adoption of the technology has been a huge issue in its popularity. With iBeacons built into to iPhones, the amount of people who already have access to this technology is huge, giving it real potential to be a challenger to NFC, particularly when it comes to paper-free tickets and contactless payments.