The digital age can make consumers feel just as lost as they do connected. However, thanks to geo-beacons and geo-targeted applications, this is starting to change. While this location-based technology may sound complex, it is surprisingly easy to understand and its popularity is on the rise. As noted in Allied Market Research's latest report, the global smart beacon market size is expected to reach $103.94 billion by 2030 from $3.28 billion in 2020, growing at a CAGR of 37.70% from 2021 to 2030.
So, let's start by breaking down what a geobeacon is, how intive has been using them in some of our exciting Media & Entertainment projects, and how to use these beacons to create immersive digital experiences for your customers.
To understand what a geobeacon is, we must first define geotargeting. Geotargeting is the art of delivering content to users based on their location. It involves using cellular technology to determine the rough approximation of someone’s location and then distribute specific content to them based on that location. Geobeacons, also known as beacons, proximity beacons, and BLE beacons, are small devices that surround an area’s airwaves to send Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) signals to nearby devices to trigger specific actions, usually within a native application.
As businesses become more aware of the power of beacons for blending the real and the digital world, they have started to make use of this tool to make their customers feel deeply engaged with their products and services. The most common application so far has been for businesses to use beacons to alert users of sales of nearby goods, but their use cases go well beyond just that.
As product strategists, designers, and developers, we're excited by geobeacons' ability to deliver hyper-targeted and granular material in unique and fascinating ways. One of the most exciting projects that the intive team has undertaken was enhancing the studio tour experience of one of the world's largest studios, located in Hollywood. We’ve placed beacons around a studio lot where tour visitors eagerly arrive to see authentic film props and set pieces.
Here are a few of the things we were able to achieve with beacon technology and an accompanying custom app:
Automatically check users into the tour on arrival.
Show visitors where iconic movies and television events were filmed.
Provide information about sets and props using specifically-placed beacons.
Give each user a unique, customized experience during a group tour. To do this, tour guides asked guests about their interests ahead of time and then we used beacons to deliver curated content that was specific to each guest through the app.
Once the content and CMS are in place, tour operators are even able to create customized experiences for one-off events that use beacons to deliver one-of-a-kind experiences without needing to build something from scratch.
Here are some of the most valuable learnings we have gained from this recent project:
1. Vendor choice is important
Generally speaking, the main beacon providers, Estimote, Kontakt.io, BlueUp, and Bluvision, tend to be quite similar in terms of hardware. However, vendor choice is critical when it comes to software and support and, certain providers excel in these areas more than others.
2. Software is mission critical
Protocols, or frameworks, are essential for most projects. Make sure that you define your requirements and research which provider can best support your project. The major framework providers are iBeacons, Google Beacons, and Estimote (which is also a hardware supplier).
3. You need to test on-site You can't just run your beacon protocol through an in-house testing phase: obstacles and real-life distance can definitely change your results. Expect to hack beacons once you set them up. We've even shoved them in Pringle cans to help limit the range in one specific application.
4. Prioritise framework maintenance Whether you're using Estimote or Google, you’ll need to make sure that you pay attention to framework maintenance. Kontakt.io can alleviate these concerns if you are looking for third-party support.
5. Explore other use cases for geobeacons
Advertising: Ads based on geolocation or proximity to goods have proven to be very successful.
POS and in-store promotions: In-store promotions mesh well with proximity triggers.
Customer loyalty campaigns: From gamification to data collection.
Hospitality: Airline KLM's Schiphol Airport app in Amsterdam shows the walking distance between gates.
Museums: Exhibition finding and granular tours.
Theatres: Seat finding.
Although there are many advantages and potential use cases for geobeacons, there are a few factors currently limiting their widespread adoption:
Battery life: Bluetooth uses a lot of power and this is the primary hardware limitation that is hindering beacon adoption. For example, the more area needing to be covered, the more beacons are needed or the more frequently they must be charged. However, Bluetooth has shown great advances in recent years. Version 4.2 has introduced a "wake up" functionality that prevents packets from flying constantly. This means that devices are only receiving packet info when they're active. The latest Bluetooth versions (5, 5.1, and 5.2) provide extended battery life, twice the speed, four times the range, and eight times the broadcast capacity of previous versions. All of these enhancements benefit the beacon market and expand the advertising capabilities that lie at the core of beacon technology.
Security: If battery life is the biggest hardware limitation, security is the issue when it comes to software. There isn't any encryption between your SDK and your beacon, so they cannot contain any personal information. Although this is starting to improve, it still has a long way to go. Luckily, there is a lot that can be done without transmitting sensitive data.
Application reliance: For customer-facing apps, users have to opt-in and download them, which can be inconvenient. However, this will likely become more of an advantage than a limitation as GDPR rolls out.
Major companies such as Estimote and Google are completely reshaping beacon technology by setting standards and utilizing GitHub resources to enable a wider community to continually redefine the tech. Finally, the widespread adoption of public Wi-Fi is greatly expanding beacons' new capabilities and use cases. These advancements are certainly transforming the digital landscape, enabling companies to leverage the use of beacons and delight their customers with a seamless journey.
Are you looking to kickstart your own beacon project? Get in touch with us!