Apple made headlines last month by announcing iBeacon – their newest software product that pushes notifications to users as they browse their retail stores. Since then it’s become one of the most talked about new technologies.
So what is an iBeacon and how does it work?
iBeacon is an intelligent micro-location platform that can be deployed in a variety of environments to aid in navigation and interactive geofencing. In layman’s terms it’s software that allows mobile apps to recognize when an iOS or Android device is near a small wireless sensor (called a beacon). This beacon can transmit data to the device and vice versa using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), very similar to submarine sonar.
When the signal emitted from the iBeacon reaches another device it will display a notification if the receiving device has Bluetooth enabled and has the app installed.
The benefits of iBeacons are obvious for retailers. It allows stores to track and connect with customers in real-time as well as sharing coupons, promotions and rewards. Imagine receiving a 10% off coupon for Kenneth Cole shoes for just being in the shoe department. Macy’s has already started a pilot program in their flagship New York and San Francisco stores
That sounds great…but what about Sponsorship Activations?
I see iBeacons being paramount in Sponsorship Activation programs moving forward. This technology adds layers of interactivity at events, which would benefit teams, sponsors and of course fans.
As an example, CES held a massive scavenger hunt at the show this year. Attendees who own iOS and Android devices were invited to download the CES app available at both the App Store and Google Play. Once installed it provided further information and details. Participants then roamed CES trying to collect iBeacon badges. Top winners won various prizes ranging from tablets to CES swag.
Major League Baseball has also jumped on the iBeacon bandwagon. Later this year they’ll be utilizing the technology to customize fans’ experiences at ballparks via their At the Ballpark app. Last year MLB officials gave a preview of the app by showing how it can offer special features based on users’ location in a stadium such as coupons for food and souvenirs or a video that plays near park landmarks.
There are nearly 200 million iBeacons in the wild today that come in the form of our hand held devices. The fact that your phone can be both a transmitter and receiver allows for limitless possibilities. Peer-to-Peer fan/sponsor/athlete interactions, gamification, spontaneous messaging based on your real-world location, etc.
This emerging technology will open the floodgates of creative ideas to push the envelope and create new ways to fulfill the needs of teams, sponsors and fans/consumers worldwide. It’s a great time indeed.