iBeacon and Physical Web: Differences in Deployment Strategies
Last Updated:  April 3, 2018
Location-based technologies have witnessed significant growth over the last few years, with brands across diverse verticals leveraging technologies like iBeacon to deliver unique and valuable location-based content and services to customers. Now, with the introduction of Eddystone beacons and the Physical Web, businesses have another new and effective channel to reach customers at the right time and place, with much less effort. Eddystone and iBeacon are unique in the way they function and the kind of experiences they deliver. You can read more about the differences between the two technologies in our earlier blog –Eddystone vs Physical Web vs iBeacon.
Once a business has decided on a beacon project, certain key questions around budgetary allowances, target audience, success metrics and deployment strategies among others must be clearly understood. The first step in any beacon project is the beacon deployment strategy. It is crucial for businesses to identify the type of beacons to be used (Eddystone or iBeacon) and the nature of deployment to be carried out, in order to successfully deliver the intended customer experience.
With Eddystone beacons being relatively new and with fewer cases of real-time deployments, many businesses are still not sure about the aspects to be considered for deployment. In this post, we will discuss the major differences in deployment for iBeacon and Eddystone beacons:
Beacon deployment strategy for iBeacon technology
iBeacon technology always works in conjunction with apps. One of the crucial factors to consider before deployment is the kind of metrics that is to be gathered and nature of experiences that are be delivered by the beacon-enabled app, as this will help in deciding the kind of deployment that is to be done. The two major deployment strategies for iBeacon technology are point-based deployment (involving non-overlapping zones) and grid-based deployment (involving overlapping zones). We shall now see how these two approaches work:
Point-based deployment is essentially deploying beacons at various points of interest, such as, shop entrances, billing stations etc. The idea of this deployment is to engage customers only at specific points of interest. For instance, sending promotional offers at the entrance of a store to attract more visitors would make a good use-case for this deployment strategy. Thus, this kind of deployment does not involve any overlapping beacon zones. It is also important to note that due to non-overlapping zones, mapping of customer paths (movement of customers’ from one beacon zone to another) is not possible in point-based beacon deployments.
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Grid-based beacon deployments are undertaken when the exact customer path within an area (a retail store, for example) is to be determined. Use-cases like indoor positioning solutions, navigation support and area wise analytics are best suited for this type of deployment. Most grid-based deployments are spread over large physical areas (involving overlapping zones) and thus require more beacons when compared to point-based deployments.
Grid-based deployments are considered to be more complex and require a relatively high degree of expertise (or tuning) in order to ensure the integrity of the beacon deployment. Thus, beacons that form part of grid-based deployments are not often moved once they are configured and fixed.
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Beacon deployment strategy for the Physical Web
Supported by Eddystone beacons, the Physical Web essentially aims to connect objects in the physical world to the web through the Chrome browser (or any other browser supported by the Physical Web) on users phones’. The key features of Eddystone beacon deployments are as follows:
1. Deployment is based on customer need
Physical Web beacons are deployed keeping in mind the specific product or service that leverages the Physical Web in order to reach customers. For example, an Eddystone beacon placed on/near a parking meter can be configured to send a URL through which customers can pay the parking fees. Thus, it is best to say that Physical Web beacons should be deployed based on when customers would exactly need information.
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2. Zone overlap does not matter
One of the key differences between Eddystone and iBeacon is that of beacon zone overlap when it comes to deploying beacons. With the Physical Web, zone overlap does not matter, as browsers automatically rank the Physical Web URLs in accordance to the proximity of the beacons. Thus, the nearest beacon would appear at the top of the list followed by others. The user then has an option to choose the URL that is relevant to him/her. This is very similar to how search works on web browsers.
3. Can be deployed more densely
Since zone overlap does not matter, Eddystone beacons can be deployed more densely when compared to iBeacon. In fact, the whole idea of the Physical Web is to connect almost all objects in the physical world to the virtual world through Eddystone beacons. Hence, a dense distribution of Eddystone beacons is expected to be part of the solution.
4. Frequent changes in beacon location can be expected
As mentioned before, Eddystone beacons are placed relative to a product or service. Hence, sometimes, if the product or service is only offered for a limited time, or has changed, the location of the beacon will also need to be changed accordingly. For instance, if a beacon is used for a promoting a new bike, the beacon can be placed near the bike display and once the promotion is over, the beacon will be moved to another product or location as required by the business. It is also interesting to note that the reason that beacon locations can be changed so frequently is due to the ease with which Physical Web content can be managed. Here is an interesting post on how to effectively manage content and engage customers through the Physical Web.
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5. Easy to deploy
Deploying Eddystone beacons for Physical Web projects is quite simple and easy. No special expertise is required to either install the beacons or manage the content and campaigns. In order to kickstart a Physical Web project, all that a business has to do is to buy a few beacons and have a website that can be shared with customers or users. In case you are considering a Physical Web solution, Beaconstac is a good option as it not only allows you to easily manage your Physical Web project, but also allows you to transmit rich content and alter metadata in order to attract more customers. Beaconstac’s cloud-based platform that allows you to manage your campaigns remotely.
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Thus, it can be said that Eddystone beacons are relatively easier to deploy when compared to iBeacons. Deployment is a very critical consideration for the overall effectiveness for any beacon-based proximity initiative and businesses should consider all the pros and cons of beacon deployment before going ahead with a project.
If you are planning an Eddystone beacon pilot, take a look at Beaconstac, that includes everything you need to kickstart your campaign in under 15 minutes. Using Beaconstac you can set up your own campaign, without a developer’s help!