Uses For iBeacon

The introduction of iBeacon came with a whisper rather than a bang. We were promised that it could change how we interact with our own technology and physical locations but most of the world hasn’t seen any real world examples. So I thought I’d look at a couple iBeacon uses that would really improve peoples lives.

Stores

Larger Stores

A store’s iBeacon could ask to see your shopping list and, if given permission, guide you to each item. When you walked into a store it could immediately pull up your shopping list, look at what is available at this store, and give you a path from item to item with in-store navigation. No more searching large stores in vain for the product you need. It could even replace the role of floor salespeople, especially because these stores don’t seem to staff anyone anyways. Once you reach the area of your item your phone pops up some customer reviews of the product as well as some reviews of the competition. You select the one that looks the best and move on.

I’m not sure if retailers would actually want a system like this. The linear path would make impulse purchases less likely, especially if the customers face is buried in their iPhone as they walk.

Smaller Stores

There is less need, for the customer, to use an iBeacon in a smaller store because it’s usually easier to find things and they tend to have staff to help you with your purchases. However, smaller stores could have an iBeacon that covered to sidewalk in front of their stores and peoples phones could alert them when something on their shopping list is available.

Schools

”Please take one and pass the papers back.”

Was a very common thing to hear when I was in high school. I imagine that will/has changed to:

”Please look in your email for the assignment.”

Or

”Please go to lesson 3 of the course syllabus and click on the exercise.”

Looking at a website, or email, isn’t a broken system but it could be improved with iBeacon. The teacher pushes assignments from their computer to the class and they all instantly pop up on the kids screens, ready to be worked on. The kids go to work and the teacher pulls in their progress at the end of class via iBeacon.

It could also change how things classrooms are set up. Rather than having a big screen in the class, teachers could push notes/pictures/files to the class as the teachers are giving their lecture. With advances in speech recognition it could even happen automatically as a teacher brings up a subject from the lesson plan.

Home

Home automation is going to be a huge industry in the coming years and iBeacon could help. Walking past an iBeacon could turn on lights, turn up heat in a room, even personalize devices, like the TV, to your tastes. Imagine you sit down at the family TV and the iBeacon recognizes you’re the only one in the room so it queues up the shows you are currently watching. The possibilities are endless but allowing devices to know your physical location in a house could have huge potential not only for you but for friends as well. Say you invite a new friend over, some ales are had, and he passes out on your couch. In the morning the iBeacon could recognize that this is a stranger but his phone was in close proximity to yours for hours last night so he probably isn’t a murderer and pushes a floor plan of your house with paths to the bathroom and a list of what is available for breakfast, entertainment he can watch from your iTunes account in your home, etc.

Museums

“What am I looking at? Oh the card says it’s 17th century, painter unknown.” That’s interesting, I’ll keep moving.

Instead of using an audio guide, or QR codes like I have seen in other museums iBeacon could do a much better job of explaining artworks. Automatically pushing audio or information to your phone as you walked around. (With your permission of course.) Some would argue that this would be distracting but I think it would be a much better experience to walk around with a headphone in your ear and automatically hear about the painting you’re looking at. If your very interested you can pull out your phone and receive more information.

Abuse

iBeacons could be horribly utilized making the experience worse for a customer. Pushing unwanted ads and promotions to customers is an obvious way it could be misused. iBeacon straddles the line between useful and annoying. It is opt in but users could quickly find it more annoying than helpful. Stores who use iBeacon have to be careful they don’t over do it. They need to offer a good experience that augments traditional shopping, not just cram more advertising down our throats.

Final Words

iBeacon could be an amazing advance that enriches our lives or it could be a terrible nuisance that no on uses. If Apple wants it to succeed it has to set strict guidelines or the general public will not see the benefits, only the annoyances. It has great potential but we will see what happens as it becomes more prolific in our lives.


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