According to experts, 2016 will be the year of the beacon. With the unlimited opportunities that beacons offer to both retail and non retail verticals, businesses all across are gearing up to effectively leverage iBeacon technology. One of the most vital requirements for this is having a beacon app. It is essential to have a good beacon-enabled app, which is not solely designed to push promotional offers to customers but should also convey the value offered in return for the personal data that is asked for and make your customers’ interaction with your brand ‘flexible, convenient, and relevant’.
As a beacon app option, businesses either go for a third party beacon-enabled app or choose to integrate iBeacon technology with their own app. In both the cases, it becomes important that some key aspects are taken into consideration. In our earlier blog posts, we have already discussed the four mistakes to avoid and things to keep in mind when developing your own beacon app. Now we bring to you five fundamental keys that will assist you in building your beacon app. Let’s take a look at them:
1) The right feature set
Once an app is beacon-enabled, it allows you to measure the physical distance between a user and a broadcasting beacon. You can then deliver tailored content to the user based on his/her specific behavioural history combined with the real world context of the beacon. For this to be successful, mapping between the user and the beacon is essential. The app must know the identity of the user. Mapping allows the backend to aggregate vital user information like his/her precise location, time spent, and application context. For instance, information like the number of visits to a specific area can tell you about a user’s interests and more. So, once you receive the time spent on particular beacons by a user, you can push time-based coupons linked to that beacon’s location and that particular user’s preferences. Keeping this in mind, you need to pay special attention to three things when selecting a feature set for your beacon app:
– Include elements that improve user experience, making it seamless and non-cumbersome
– Protect user privacy by ensuring transparency about the information shared and how that information will be used
– Select features that don’t cripple the app as soon as beacons are out of range (momentarily)
2) The permission matrix
Image source: thenewstack.io
A user needs to grant location permissions in order to use the features linked to a beacon. In addition, the user also needs to turn on the device’s bluetooth. There are several parameters, such as those mentioned below, necessary for the app to work in conjunction with beacons and these parameters form the permission matrix. So, a beacon app can only perform its function when certain parameters in the permission matrix are met. Some such parameters that need to be met are:
– the device should have proper bluetooth specification required for it to support beacons
– bluetooth should be turned on to interact with beacons
– location services should be enabled
– the app should have the authorization to access the device’s location
Asking for permission to access bluetooth and location services are the two bare essentials for your beacon-enabled app to interact with beacons. You can achieve these essentials by using a geofence to push a notification as a subtle reminder for users to turn on their bluetooth and location services. If you are launching a new app, it’s best to ask for these permissions as late as possible to let users see what your app offers. You can eventually ask for permissions when a user is close to a beacon.
When you are building your beacon app, it helps if you understand the hardware being deployed. Since beacons are transmitters, there are certain factors that come into play when they transmit a signal. Two things that need to be noted are: the signal strength of a beacon and the distance between a device and a beacon. The signal strength of a beacon may vary among manufacturers. The distance is categorized in three zones: Immediate, Near, and Far. Along with this information, the accuracy and power measurements are provided to the app in order for it to act on this information at an appropriate time. Other factors to keep in mind are:
– the distance between a device and a beacon is perceived by calculating the difference between the broadcasting power and the measured power of a beacon and the changes in the signal over time
– Measured power of the signal is affected by factors like how radio waves bounce in the given space, the presence of people as their body (being around 70% water) absorbs waves, and interference with other wireless devices
– Beacon signals are affected by device power, temperature, the difference between described power and actual power, and polling interval (which may vary from broadcast to broadcast)
4) The server piece
Image source: thoughtworks.com
– Business logic script is essential when building a beacon app since the app needs the script to fetch all the relevant beacon-related data
– The app also needs essential metadata like the location of a beacon on a floor plan
When the app is near a specific beacon, it pulls that beacon’s information such as UUID, major and minor numbers from the data on the server. It also queries the ‘business logic script’, to get a list of all users that are near that beacon. The script then filters this data for privacy and interprets if a user is really “at the beacon”.
This is a tricky task, considering a lot of times update events do not make it to the server, or an iOS device can drop beacon ranging. Beaconstac’s business logic, for example, uses a time-based heuristic 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 through the App Store review
After you complete the process of building your beacon app, you will face the challenge of successfully passing the app store review process. The below listed pointers might help you get through it:
– Explain clearly what the app does, both in the public description and in the review notes
– Provide a demo account and some beacon UUIDs in the review notes to help the reviewers
– Add a video demonstrating the use of beacons in the app, include a link to the video in the review notes
– Since your app will use background location monitoring, include a battery use disclaimer in the description
Do you have any tips or suggestions from your own experience of building a beacon-enabled app? Let us know in the comments below.
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!