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iBeacons - What you need to know

28th July 2014 Print

Nope that’s not an air freshener on the wall in Tesco’s, it’s an iBeacon - Apple’s newest way to provide iPhone users and other iOS devices location based information via Bluetooth low-energy wireless technology.

An iBeacon is the newest technology in push advertising currently being trialled by brands in the UK and US to offer their customers, and potentially new ones, special offers and deals.

The chances of seeing one at the moment are quite slim unless you’re in the London area as stores are still currently trialling them, but they are paving the way in innovative advertising.

So how do they work?

iBeacons are currently only compatible with anything above iOS7. That means iPhone 4s or later, iPad 3rd generation upwards and Android 4.3 plus. The device is a small Bluetooth transmitter that interacts with corresponding Apps on your iPhone. The specific App constantly listens out for signals transmitted by the iBeacon via Bluetooth and interacts with it when you walk into its range.

For example, if you have a retailers App installed on your phone and you walk into a participating store that has an iBeacon installed, you will get an alert on your phone telling you about a new deal or product.

Who is using iBeacons?

Virgin Atlantic is currently trialling iBeacon at Heathrow airport. The App interacts with Virgin Atlantic customers walking towards a security checkpoint (as long as they have it installed) and automatically pulls up their mobile boarding pass so it can be inspected quickly.

Supermarket giant Tesco’s are currently testing out iBeacon in the London area, telling customers that any goods they have pre-ordered are ready and waiting for them.

Am I going to get a million ads a day?

The amount of ads you’ll get will be dictated by how many of the corresponding apps you have. The iBeacons are fairly useless unless you have the correct App installed on your phone as they only interact with the corresponding App.

Can I make it stop?

Yes of course. As we’ve mentioned before you will only get the ads if you have that App installed, but if you want to stop receiving ads for a while all you have to do is go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services in your iPhone and switch off Bluetooth, or you could simply delete the App - Hold down app > Wait for it to wobble > Press the little ‘X’ and you’re completely opted out.

The iBeacon is still in its development and testing stage but is opening up fantastic new opportunities for brands who want to interact with customers based on their personal preferences and location.

This type of technology is also a step in the right direction when it comes to mobile payment opportunities. Shoppers can pay for items even if there is no Wi-Fi or 3G available as the smartphone only needs Bluetooth to connect and communicate with the beacon, spurring brands like PayPal to develop a similar product.

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