iBeacon technology has been in the talks since it’s introduction in WWDC, June 2013. This technology, that can be used to deliver path-breaking customer experiences and generate more revenue in retail stores, museums, hotels, malls, theme parks, airports etc., has been the most disruptive technology in recent times.
Beacons – as the hardware is referred to, have been selling like hot cakes ever since news about what beacons can do, spread.
The two terms beacon and iBeacon, are often confused with each other and used interchangeably. You could refer to our Beacon FAQs blog to understand these terms better.
Beacon hardware has evolved with the changing needs of the market. These devices are slowly progressing from the simple coin-battery powered devices to USB-enabled and now electromagnetic wave powered beacons.
Also, bluetooth signals often get affected by surrounding medium, such as walls or dense materials. A system, such as the one used for contactless payments, cannot afford to have an improper and inconsistent connection. To tackle this challenge, you can opt for Wi-Fi enabled beacons (commonly known as ‘connected beacons’) such as Paypal and Cloud beacons from Kontakt.
With all these options available, it is easy to get confused about which beacons are best for your business. Here are a few factors you need to keep in mind:
1. Battery life: Though, most beacon manufacturers claim to have a battery life of 1-2 years, if they are tested to broadcast at a frequency compliant with Apple specifications their batteries last much lesser. Application developers who have actually tested several battery-powered beacons at Apple’s suggested frequencies, have discovered that battery life of coin-cell beacon models can be as little as 2 months. Thus, to lessen maintenance costs, beacons running on a fixed power source is most ideal.
2. Sturdiness/Encasing: Initially, most beacon use-cases were related to indoor locations. With continuous innovation in this space, outdoor locations have become the next obvious area for beacon deployment. Outdoor locations, however, come with their own set of problems such as rain, ice, frost, extremes of temperatures and so on. Water as a medium is highly absorbing, so are architecturally complicated spaces like hotels and museums. Extremes of temperatures too, reduce battery life significantly. Outdoor beacons thus need to be really sturdy. Hence, it is important to know if you require all-weather beacons, or the general indoor beacons.
3. Peer reviews/Use Cases: It’s easy to get swayed by the features mentioned by various manufacturers. To deploy the right beacons for your business, you should make sure that you take the opinion of people who have/are actually using beacons on the field. Getting this first-hand information is extremely important and can be very beneficial. A good example would be to know how long the battery of a particular brand of beacons actually last.Also, reviews specific to use cases are more helpful. If you are a museum, a feedback from another museum using beacons will be more useful than that from, say, a retail retailer.
Here is the data sheet on all the beacon hardware options and their specific features that can help you choose well.
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!