Coming soon! – iBeacons

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iBeacons-Coming to a venue near you soon!

It seems to be on the lips of every marketing agency, it’s the buzzword of the year, it’s the retailers recurring fantasy come true, it’s the ….  ” but …  but……WAIT a minute!!  surely it’s just a bit of technology and it’s got some obvious retail and other public space applications”. Thanks Homer.

iBeacons use Bluetooth 4 technology to broadcast messages to Mobile phones. The iBeacon itself is inexpensive and mobile. They can be put almost anywhere. Imagine you are at a rock concert and the merchandiser wants to get a message to all the audience in front of the stage, or arriving in their thousands at Wembley Stadium… but how?.. what about pairing?, what about distance and …..hold on there fellah !  with the iBeacon there’s no need to have paired devices and the range is typically greater than you would associate with standard Bluetooth, up to 50 metres at the moment. Imagine the potential  where the beacon could reach every one of the tens of thousands of people walking down Wembley Way towards or away from the stadium. The possibilities are many and varied for selectively blatting a message to these passers-by as they exit a game, hungry, thirsty and tired perhaps. Hotels/restaurants, bars , burger joints and hot dog vans  alike will be able to entice people with direct marketing appeals at specified events  turning it on or off like a tap as their facility fills to capacity…………..or their beer runs out….ibeacon2

When will this “hit the streets” so to speak? Well…that’s a good one, it’s definitely about to land in a significant way, in fact, 200 million iOS devices can already serve as transmitters and receivers  – yes, Apple have built in  the technology and it’s called Apple iBeacon into the iOS7iPhone operating system.  To be clear, the Apple iPhone beacons are two way iBeacons for receiving a signal and for transmitting.  There are other,  third party beacons, which simply act as transmitters of data /messages which are received by the iPhone and numerous Android devices too including the ever popular galaxy range from Samsung.

…. Any more objections?  Yes sure, what powers these iBeacons?  – great point, they are low energy, have self contained power source – (cell battery!), so can be installed and left alone (low maintenance) and are thought to have a battery span of about 2 years…. since they work on pulse rather than continuously draining a battery… Yes two years!. Next.? How does it work in practice…? Ahaah, OK, yes… well,… from a user perspective it’s a case of “Wow – where did that come from?”. But in fact When a smartphone enters within an  iBeacon’s range (up to 50m), the beacon’s signal triggers content from either a local database or cloud-based storage. The smartphone user will see a notification on their home screen saying a discount, incentive or appropriate product is available at such and such a place .  What if the phone is locked? It gets to them even if the phone is locked, relax.ibeacon3

That’s what I’m talking about, targeted marketing , targeted by time, place, people events products …what about putting this into a shop, there’s a special offer on those shoes, lets hit everyone within 15 metres of the shoe shop with this offer, lets sell shoes !….and everything else besides. Beacons will be used in all sorts of public spaces to inform as well as to sell. Maybe airports will use them to direct people to the right gate, maybe an art gallery will have information on the artwork on its walls and a guide through the building to keep those crowds moving. Crowd control is a really big business in the days when mass participation activities seem to be on the increase through the marketing efforts of social media. These iBeacons may be the link on the ground that contacts and communicates any number of kinds of information to the crowds once they get together at the venue. iBeacons are here folks… let’s get ready to ……..er… be…. contacted. Yeeey!

 

 

The Internet of Things.

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The Internet of Things – also known as Machine to Machine but most commonly described as “an ecosystem of technologies monitoring the status of physical objects, capturing meaningful data, and communicating that information through IP networks to software applications”. – See more at: http://blog.atlasrfidstore.com/internet-of-things-and-rfid#sthash.89FeGYhk.dpuf  Sounds a little bit like that nightmare scenario where the computers take over. (Kubrick’s space station computer,Hal, was early to that game!). But let’s not panic yet; this term is less worryingly more concerned with building links between devices, often via Bluetooth or Wi Fi to enable a degree of automation to daily chores. phew, that’s all right then.

What is it in everyday terms ?  In a simple form this is the remote Bluetooth speaker playing music that you hold in your phone. More and more people are enjoying the benefit of a wrist band linked to an app again by Bluetooth, which monitors various measurable to display as output on your mobile phone. Fitness tracking apps abound! (as does increased obesity… ).The-Age-of-Everywhere-Computing-is-Here_smarthome

Extending the concept into Home automation is more than a mere ambition.

Home automation, a term that has become increasingly popular in the mansions of Mayfair where the mundane task of opening a pair of heavy drapes (I dare not stoop to call them curtains) is no longer reliant on the mind and muscle of a human being. It no longer relies on a human being even being in the building. Open your app, choose a room and manipulate various aspects including the aforementioned drapes.

Google snapped up Nest Labs recently for a handsome £1.9 billion, giving them a foot in to door to this sphere of activity. Nest are currently looking at many more ways to join devices in the home via this technology, from security systems to health tracking. imagesMore recently, news emerged that Google are about to launch a “smart tracking system” to enable the user to be alerted to the vicinity of specified people, places, shops etc. Google Nearby is set to be standard on new Android handsets and will compete directly with Apples Homekit and iBeacon smart shopping system.

The Google  app will use the phone’s GPS, Bluetooth and even microphone to work out location of the user and then automatically trigger commands – for instance, waiting for the user to issue instructions such as ‘open the garage door’  but only when in close proximity to that particular door, or automatically turn on the lights when the user is close enough to the house in question. The system is expected to work with appliances such as Google’s own Nest smart thermostat to enabling a user to adjust temperature without anything more complex than a voice command.

The key point to notice in all this is that many of the big names in technology are heavily investing and this signifies a belief in and the inevitable increasing application of this technology in this environment. It’s going to grow increasingly pervasive. Apple have announced their forthcoming Homekit at its Worldwide Developers Conference. This system will perform numerous domestic tasks such as unlocking doors, turning on lights via the iPhone. That’s a relief I am sure!.

For the moment its worth acknowledging that the world is on the cusp of a revolution, a change driven by miniaturisation and computing advances which will deliver noticeable changes to the way we live, even if its only that we don’t have to move our increasingly obese behinds from the sofa in order to draw the curtains. The more significant consideration which will come as a secondary outcome is that these digital devices and their interconnectivity with servers and databases will begin to generate masses of data from day one. Imagine having that level of micro knowledge about the behaviour of …well most of us. But perhaps we should save that thought for now and concentrate on the matter in hand… the  ahhh… World Cup, ….now, where did I put the beer…er.. the remote? What do you mean its all over?…who? Germany! Doh!!! well in that case, Vorsprung durch technik and all that.