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Discovering iBeacon, a new technology made in Apple

iBeacon is the technology based on Bluetooth 4.0 LE that Apple is pushing to replace the NFC

 

Imagine walking down the street and feel vibrate smartphone: you got a notification that informs you that there is a super deal on a product that you have always dreamed of owning. Nothing unusual, except that the product is in the shop window in front of you. iBeacon is one of the most powerful arrows in the quiver of Apple, a system that exploits a feature of the new Bluetooth 4.0 LE and that allows you to send targeted messages to those who have a certain application installed on your smartphone or tablet. iBeacon is a kind of NFC (Near Field Communication), but it is incredibly powerful because it is passive and does not require contact and has a huge range, 70 meters outdoors.

To understand the potential of iBeacon enough to say that, although behind the scenes there is Apple, the system works on all smartphones 4.0 bluetooth running iOS 7 or KitKat on board, then a pool of potential users in the coming years will be able to count hundreds of thousands of people.

 

A cheap sensor and the game is (almost) done

At the core of the system is the “beacon”, a small bluetooth transmitter from a few tens of Euros available in different versions and integrated throughout. This sensor creates a bubble of “proximity”, a sphere of large radius within which each person becomes a potential receiver of notifications if the bluetooth is activated. The bubble is actually divided into three zones: a peripheral zone, a zone of proximity and contact area.

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These three areas can be exploited for different needs and configured according to the needs of individual stores or assets that have created the system. That is outside the scope of “engagement”: all those who come into this area are potential prey of the radius, the middle is the area of ​​the neighborhood, or you are close to the emitter (about a meter), while the “contact” area is the closest zone to the object, in which you can make interactions such as purchase.

A practical example of the exploitation of the areas could be McDonald’s: it decided to send a notification from 12 pm to 14 pm for people who pass in front of the shop window and have McDonald’s app installed:  there is a super discount on a new hamburger. Who comes to the door will appear on his screen a photo of a hamburger, the offer description  offer and people will be able to withdraw their coupon.

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Not only shopping: the future potentialities

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iBeacon is a tool with limitless potential: over marketing can indeed be used to make “shop analytics”, ie the detailed analysis of what happens in a store. Beacon literally means “lighthouse”, and by placing a series of beacons within a commercial area will be able to draw, with a good approximation, the exact behavior of each person “active” inside the store itself, the way it does and the shelves of which is approaching. All of this information, they are usually in the hands of an owner of an online store (who knows the habits of customers thanks to the monitoring systems), but never before possible in a physical store. iBeacon will also facilitate electronic payments: in a small radius in fact the beacon will send the information to an iPhone for buying and thanks to TouchID, you can safely finalize the transaction.