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The term iBeacon refers to a wireless protocol established by Apple on the basis of Bluetooth Low Energy that can be used indoors. With iBeacon, smartphones can be located up to 30 meters away via their Bluetooth signals. iBeacon is a new trend for retail stores. They can send messages to customers or use it as a payment system.
The technology behind iBeacon is based on the simple model of transmitter and receiver, or Beacon technology. Within a certain space, transmitters are installed, the so-called beacons. These small transmitters emit radio signals at specified intervals, which are picked up by a receiver. Once a receiver is detected by a beacon, the transmitter measures the signal strength of the device and determines its UUID, a code used to identify devices on a network. The exact position of the receiver can be determined by using several transmitters.
Once a recipient, typically a smartphone or tablet, has been found, messages can be sent to these devices by each sender. Compared to wireless transmission technology, iBeacon is based on Bluetooth Low Energy. As a result, the transmitters require very little energy and can achieve very long ranges of up to 30 meters. In addition, due to the long range, fewer beacons are required to cover a complete store. iBeacons present a lower cost alternative to NFC technology.
Apple first introduced the iBeacon protocol in 2013 in some of its US stores.
Supported operating systems
iBeacon can be used by devices starting with iOS7 and Android 4.3 "Jelly Bean." Apple devices such as the iPhone 4S or the iPad in third and iPods in the fifth generation are compatible with the wireless standard. Android-based smartphones and tablets support iBeacon if Android 4.3 or higher is installed.
Benefits for marketing
The iBeacon technology offers many possibilities for marketing and sales. The following scenarios are conceivable:
- At exhibitions, visitors receive appropriate information on their mobile phone or tablet as soon as they stand in front of a specific exhibit.
- At concerts, visitors can conveniently pay for drinks or other products on their smartphones.
- Shops or department stores send their customers special offers related to the respective location in the store.
- Customers don't have to wait in line at shops to pay, they can pay with their mobile phone.
- Restaurants can send offers to passers-by on their smartphones.
- Visitors to trade fairs can be navigated specifically through the event locations.
- Older people can be located if they get lost using iBeacon technology.
- In emergencies, injured people can be easily located at major events.