With Apple’s recent iOS7 release, they added a subtle new technology that is worth watching very carefully. iBeacon.
Apple’s iBeacon uses the latest Bluetooth adaptation called BLE or Bluetooth Low Energy. BLE is a close proximity technology for mobile phones that is Apple’s preference over NFC. You know those tap-and-go smart cards that have been adapted for access control, transport ticketing and PayWave credit cards? The’re all based on Near Field Communications or NFC for short. NFC has a typical range of a few centimeters and is being built into the latest Android smartphones. It’s now being used for low transaction sales, loyalty programs, coupons or special offers, transport ticketing and even sharing contact details with another NFC enabled phone.
iBeacon has a recommended range of 10 meters and introduces a whole new range of features. In particular micro-location tracking – indoors GPS if you will.
Lets run through a possible shopping experience where the shopping center is fitted with iBeacon’s across all its carparks and where most stores have opted in:
It’s Saturday. The weathers warm and the kids are itching to head to the nearby shopping center. Sally knows she gets preferential treatment when she uses the center’s app on her smartphone so she loads it up and check for specials on what she needs before she heads out.
Sally notes the independent grocer has a special on bananas and adds them to her in-app shopping list.
The app sits in the background ready to spring into life Sally uses her windscreen mount and the app’s mapping feature guide her to one of the closest available parking areas to her favorite grocery store.
The app quietly notes where Sally parked and records it for her.
Walking into the store the in-app shopping list has compared her items to current specials and adds coupon icons next to each item.
Sally decides to do a little clothing shopping first so she checks the cinema’s offers, prepays for a movie the kids want to see – accepting the upgrade coupon presented for chips and an ice-cream for an extra $3. Sally sends the ticket info the her eldest’s phone. They immediately scamper towards the cinema. Sally shouts out to meet her at her favorite cafe and just to be sure, sends a meet-me-here notification to their phones for 3pm, just after the movie is scheduled to end.
Free at last she indulges in a little clothes shopping and heads to her favorite outlet. As she walks towards the store her phone beeps. it’s an offer for a nice pair of shoes – 20% off. Not bad at all.
Sally wanders in to check them out and decides maybe next time she’ll get them and declining the offer, heads into the jeans store she likes.
One of the racks catches here eye so she spends a few minutes checking out the styles when her phone beeps with another offer. It’s for the jeans she spent the most time looking at. It’s only a $5 discount but with her loyalty points she’ll get another $10 off making it a good deal. She grabs them and heads for the changing room to try them on. Sally decides they are a great fit and heads towards the counter.
On leaving the change rooms, her phone sends another coupon – it’s for a really striking top that would match perfectly both the jeans and the shoes she was eyeing off earlier. Giving in, she grabs the top and heads back to the changing room… fits perfectly. Damn she thinks and adds them both to her in-app purchase cart. Still seeing the shoe’s offer in the cart. She accepts it and pressing ‘Pay Now’, heads to the counter.
Silently, the app has notified both stores of the purchases.
The sales person at the counter greets sally warmly by name and comments on how well they’ll look with her purchase last month.Packing them up and handing them back to sally shes reminds her she has just qualified for the VIP Fashion Party next month and sends Sally’s app the private invite. Sally thanks her and heads back to the shoe store to pick up her shoes – already packed and waiting.
The shoe shop just across the isle watches the steady stream of returning shoppers and wonders how they keep stealing HIS customers. After all, his shoes are carefully priced to be cheaper. People should be flocking to HIS store!
Done with her clothes shopping, Sally grabs a cart and locks her phone into the provided holder. Going through her shopping list and taking up most of the offers, Sally goes from store to store collecting them and using the app or occasionally her credit card, to pay for them.
The app quietly notes Sally’s spending habits, coupon declines and location pauses (window shopping), adjusting the offers that will be displayed next time she visits.
Noting the time, she checks the app to see the kids are where they should be then doing a little more shopping, heads to the cafe to relax and wait for them.
When Sally enters, she’s warmly greeted by name and ushered to her preferred table. The app has already checked in for her which qualified Sally for a free coffee with any cake. She asks for a Tiramisu and a Laté.
As the cake arrives she spots a friend, Wendy who joins her for a much needed break. Sally shows off her new shoes and Wendy, loving the design, asks Sally to share the coupon so she can check out the store later. Sally uses the app’s share-with-friends feature and picks Wendy from the top of the geographic list.
The app quietly notes her interest and her relationship with Wendy.
A loud excited babble of voices announces the arrival of the kids so Sally says her goodbyes, and uses the app to pay for the cake. When the payment notice pops up indicating who paid and the table number, the cashier waves her thanks and Sally heads for the carpark.
When she enters the carpark escalator, the app pops up to guide her to the car. Loading up the kids, she heads back home thing how awesome it is shopping here – and she saved $107 with all the coupons she accepted.
This is Bluetooth Low Energy and it’s here now.
Don’t think this is important yet? PayPal does. Watch this video: