iBeacon is the most talked about new technology and one of biggest buzzwords in recent times.Yet, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding it. Among all the frenzy around this technology, there is a lot of ambiguity about how beacons work, the limitations posed by them, the security concerns around them etc.
We have tried to answer a lot of common questions about beacons in our post – Beacon FAQs.
Quite a few people still think that beacons “send in-store offers based on shopper locations”. This is a very common misconception. Beacons do not send notifications to a user’s phone; apps do.
[Tweet “Beacons can do nothing by themselves; they can only work in tandem with an app”]
They simply send a unique identifier to an app (akin to a geographic landmark), to tell the app that it is entering the beacon range.This signal then makes an app aware that it’s time to send the user a notification, trigger messages or perform an action.
Thus, beacons don’t transmit content – they transmit a location, enabling apps to retrieve and surface location-relevant content.
[Tweet ” Beacons don’t transmit content – they transmit a location”]
To devise a beacon strategy, the first thing you need is an app. In this post, we discuss what you need to keep in mind when building a beacon-enabled app. Here are the most important ones:
1. Being “engaging” and not “annoying”: The most inevitable concern everyone has about beacons is that they can encroach privacy. This is a very valid concern. When building your app (and setting rules for ‘messaging interval’ and messages to be sent) make sure you strike a balance between user experience and privacy.
It’s best to cater to consumers at their ‘moment of truth’. You could selectively push a time relevant (limited period offer notification), preference based ( sea facing/ hotel facing room offer at a hotel), or circumstantial (shortest path to the security gate at the airport) message to a customer to let him/her see the real value in your app.
2. Asking for permission to access bluetooth and location services: These two are the bare essentials for your beacon-enabled app to interact with beacons. If you are launching a new app, it’s best to ask for these permissions as late as possible. Let users see what your app offers, what it can do, etc. You can ask for permissions when a user is close to a beacon.
[Tweet “What you need to keep in mind when building a beacon-enabled app”]
3. Dealing with interference: Beacons are radio signal transmitters and radio signals can be absorbed by various media including water and air. There are quite a few factors that lead to the problem of beacon signal interference.
The most significant ones are:
a) The Bluetooth LE spectrum is in the same spectrum band as Wi-Fi
b) Bluetooth signal quality varies widely among beacon hardware manufacturers
c) Beacon signals are affected by temperature, device power, and polling intervals (which may vary from broadcast to broadcast)
Your app needs to estimate a beacon’s distance from it. It thus needs to be designed in a way that it can make the closest approximation based on the variables mentioned above.
[Tweet “The Bluetooth LE spectrum is in the same spectrum band as Wi-Fi”]
4. Generating the ‘Business Logic’ script: Your app would have a list of all beacons you have installed, their UUIDs, ‘major’ and ‘minor’ numbers and ‘floor’ location. When the app is near a specific beacon, it pulls a “business logic script”, a list of all users that are near that beacon. The script then filters this data for privacy and interprets what “at the beacon” means.
This is not an easy task, considering a lot of times update events do not make it to the server, or an iOS device can drop beacon ranging. It is advisable that your business logic uses a time-based method to guess if the user is reasonably still there. For example, if the user was last recorded at the specified beacon within a short (5 minute) window and didn’t move to a different beacon, the user is counted as actively at the beacon.
5. Getting an “App Store” approval:
A few pointers:
a) Explain clearly what the app does, both in the public description and in the review notes.
b) Add a video demonstrating the use of beacons in the app, include a link to the video in the review notes.
c) Provide a demo account and some beacon UUIDs in the review notes to help the reviewers.
d) Since your app will use background location monitoring, include a battery use disclaimer in the description. Something like “Continued use of GPS running in the background can dramatically decrease battery life”.
UPDATED – FEB 2018
Beaconstac has developed a new app – “Nearbee”. This app brings the power of Nearby Notifications to iOS, while also supporting the Physical Web. With NearBee, iOS users can now seamlessly discover nearby content and services being broadcast by beacons around them.This app scans for Nearby notifications and displays the notification on the iOS device. Here are all the powerful things you could do with the app–
Add an app intent to the campaign
It allows notifications to be sent at a specific time of the day, or days of a week
The app is designed to run and scan quietly in the background. This means users get the notification even when the device is locked
With the app, you can send telemetry information to the Google beacon platform where you can monitor the health of beacons
Send multiple notifications from a single beacon
If you are planning a beacon pilot, take a look at Beaconstac, that includes everything you need to get started. Using Beaconstac you can set up your own campaign, without a developer’s help!