What is Beacon?

 A beacon is a small Bluetooth transmitter. It’s kind of like a lighthouse: it repeatedly transmits a single signal that other devices will see. They’re one of the most recent developments in location technology and proximity marketing. Put simply, they connect and transmit data to smart devices making location-based searching and interaction easier and more correct. Rather than emitting visible light, though, it broadcasts a radio signal that’s made up of a combination of letters and numbers transmitted on a regular interval of approximately 1/10th of a second. A Bluetooth-equipped device like a smartphone will “see” a beacon once it’s in range, much like sailors searching for a lighthouse to know where they’re.

How Do Beacons Work?

The beacon device itself is unbelievably easy. Every device contains a C.P.U., radio, and batteries, and it works by repeatedly broadcasting out an identifier. This identifier is picked up by your device, sometimes a mobile, and marks out an important place in your surroundings. It is a unique ID number that your device recognizes as unique to the beacon. Once connected, the beacon can carry out whatever function it has been programmed to perform.

What do Beacons Look Like?

Beacons are very small, simple devices. If you crack one open, you won’t find thirty motherboards and oodles of wires. You’ll notice a CPU, radio, and batteries. Beacons usually use small lithium chip batteries (smaller and more powerful than AA batteries) or run via connected power like USB plugs. They are available in numerous shapes and colors, may include accelerometers, temperature sensors, or distinctive add-ons but all of them have one thing in common—they transmit a signal.

What is a Beacon Actually Transmitting?

It’s not throwing just any old message into the air. It’s transmitting a unique ID number that tells a listening device which beacon it’s next to. And it’s just a code name.

How Will We Interact With Beacons?

For example, when a store installs beacons in their shop, all of the beacons can have certain IDs, registered in their dedicated app. This implies a smartphone app will instantly acknowledge that the incoming ID is very important and that it’s from that specific mall. The ID, however, has very little meaning on its own; it’s entirely up to an app or another program to acknowledge what it means.

What happens next? It depends on what the owner has programmed it to do. One code might trigger the app to send a coupon. Another might provide navigation services. The chances are nearly endless. All the beacon needs to do is connect your actual location to the app, and the rest is up to the program.

What’s happening Behind the Computer Screen?

Beacons are incredibly misunderstood. They’re not tracking you. They’re not interested in that.

They’re simply broadcasting a signal. Here’s why this signal will trigger so many various things.

An online platform (for example, the dashboard), allows you to manage, configure, and update all your beacons. From there, you’ll develop your own app or use a further program called a Content Management System. These programs enable you to associate links, images, videos, and texts with individual beacons. many of these platforms are made to be extremely user-friendly. This means they’re often sleek and easy-to-use with no coding required. For instance, a program might let a museum owner add brand new capabilities to their gallery app (like quizzes or audio guides) just by typing queries or text. The program then does all the hard work automatically and stores everything in the cloud; therefore, your app will simply access it.

How do Beacons Connect With the Web?

You’ve probably heard of Bluetooth. It’s present in 90th of all phones and has been around since the 1990s. Therefore what’s changed? Why is it so vital now? While many consumers don’t use Bluetooth on a daily basis, it’s hugely vital to the internet of Things. Being in 90th of the world’s phones, Bluetooth technology means that beacons are compatible with devices consumers use on a daily basis around the globe.

Bluetooth provides the infrastructure for the complete beacon ecosystem. It’s a standard for sending information over short distances, a wireless technology not so dissimilar from WiFi. This is why beacon hardware can be simple. There’s already a web of Bluetooth around you that can connect beacons and smart devices.

Why do we Say “BLE Beacons”?

BLE stands for Bluetooth Low Energy. It’s a power-efficient version of Bluetooth originally introduced in 2010. BLE’s low energy needs are very important to beacons, as it permits them to run for years on tiny coin-cell batteries. It also consumes far less energy than the previous and clunky Bluetooth. In fact, BLE is the most important driver in the IoT, allowing technology to last longer with smaller parts.

The next question is, how do beacons connecting and transferring the data?

How does a Beacon Communicate?

Beacon hardware is relatively simple, but the way it triggers actions will get a little complicated. Every system is a little different, but here’s how a beacon communicates, in a nutshell:

The beacon sends out its ID numbers about 10 times every second (sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on its settings). A nearby Bluetooth-enabled device, like your smartphone, picks up that signal. When a dedicated app acknowledges it, it links to an action or piece of content stored in the cloud and displays it to the user. You can “teach” your app how to react to a beacon signal by developing using third-party tools.

Couldn’t the Beacon Data Just be Hardcoded into the App?

Reason-1 you don’t need information hardcoded on your phone is space. Keeping content on the cloud makes your app light and keeps your phone from getting stuck. No one needs to download bulky apps–especially when they’re on the go.

Reason -2 is that content connected to beacons will change. But, remember how beacons only broadcast an ID? That ID doesn’t change too often but the content behind it does. Say you’re a store owner and you would like to run a new sales campaign or add a promotion to your existing offerings.  If your beacon information is hardcoded, you’d need to completely re-release the app. Storing data in the cloud means that beacons can be updated almost instantly. It means that the app doesn’t have to be altered or re-coded. Once the information is online, it’s ready to go to the beacon.

Where did Beacon Technology Begin?

Today’s beacons began with the introduction of iBeacon. iBeacon is simply a protocol that lets Bluetooth devices transmit very small bits of data.

Then Google entered the scene. In 2015, Google came out with Eddystone, their iBeacon alternative. Since then, iBeacon and Eddystone have ruled the proximity market.

Now, this technology is continuing to develop with cooler capabilities, better hardware, and more diverse solutions.

Beacon Technology: A Timeline

let’s take a glance at when beacon technology was 1st developed and how it has been adopted around the globe.

10th June 2013: Apple introduces iBeacon as part of iOS 7 at the World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC 2013).

1st September – 10th November 2013: Titan installs 500 beacons in Manhattan phone booths for “maintenance purposes.”

6th December 2013: Apple installs beacons in all 254 of their U.S.A. shops to provide customers with in-store notifications regarding items, product reviews, and deals.

31st July 2014: Over 50 of the top 100 US retailers check beacons in their shops.

12th August 2014: 3 UK stores trial beacon technology in their mannequins with the aim of providing costs and links to purchasing online to customers when they enter the beacon’s 50-meter range. Significantly, customers had to have an app downloaded to receive the beacon’s information. Customers were also tracked on how long they spent their time to look at an item and their method of purchase in order for the retailers to form a more correct and customized marketing strategy.

29th September 2014: The single largest application of beacon technology in retail to date occurs when Macy’s installs over 4,000 devices across their shops.

21st November 2014: Aruba Networks successfully implements “blue dot” indoor navigation using beacons. This offers a less expensive and lower maintenance alternative to Wi-Fi for indoor navigation.

Early 2015: Some of the biggest and most downloaded apps, including Facebook and Shazam, begin integrating beacons into their functionality.

14th July 2015: Google launches Eddystone, a platform-agnostic competitor to Apple’s iBeacon. Eddystone is designed to provide location-based content to your smartphone. Being compatible across platforms, Eddystone aims to encourage developers to work with beacon technology.

14th April 2016: Google announces Eddystone-EID, which turns your phone is connected to a beacon, into an encrypted target – safeguarding users when connected.

Late 2016: With users wanting to download apps to receive proximity marketing from beacons the popularity in retail begins to stall. However, Google works on making it possible for people to use the feature without not downloading any apps, resulting in a resurgence in popularity.

Aug 2017: Bluetooth states that beacon technology can become the foundation of the internet of Things.

Late 2017 – Google pilots Project Beacon.

What is a Beacon Packet? Do You Need Those?

Battery life: Most beacons begin with an 18-24 month battery life. However, some beacons with certain requirements and uses the last some 6 to 8 months. Beacons with energy-saving capabilities will last over five years. How can beacons last so long with such tiny batteries? Easy! They don’t actually work that hard. They let Bluetooth do all the work, and it is incredibly energy efficient.

Supported Format: Does your beacon use the iBeacon protocol? Eddystone? Beacons sometimes support both of these and sometimes the hardware manufacturer’s own format (like AltBeacon).

Interval: How usually can the beacon transmit its message? How usually you need your beacon to transmit depends on your specific scenario. The Transmission Power describes how far a beacon will transmit data. This could be as little as 4 meters, but many reach some 50-90 meters. However, it’s not necessary that this number be humongous. A 50-meter range beacon can be just as useful as a 90-meter depending on the particular use.

Packets: A beacon’s “Packet” is the data it transmits. This simply describes the type of data it’s able to transmit. for instance, iBeacon contains one packet (iBeacon itself) while Eddystone has 3 separate ones.

Sensors: Currently, Beacons are coming out with extra capabilities. they’ll include accelerometers, light or movement sensors. NFC / RFID: Beacons are still very new. For some users, it’s extremely important that legacy technologies (like NFC and RFID tags) and beacons work together.

Price: Beacons will price as little as $5. Will such an inexpensive beacon be worth it? Well, that actually depends on what you want, but many users will find that ultra-cheap beacons simply don’t get the task done. Expect one standard beacon to run $15-25.

What Are 5 Main Beacon Use Cases?

Tracking: One of the beacons’ more practical use cases is something many of us would never have guessed. In manufacturing and transport, managers need to understand specifically where goods are at any given time. By attaching beacons, they will always have that information. In fact, they can even see the data from previous days or weeks.

Navigation: Creating accurate “GPS for indoor navigation” is a popular beacon use case. What Google Maps will for the outdoors, beacons will do for the indoors. They will tell you where you’re and where you’re going to a museum, festival, or terminal.

Interaction: Beacons will make reactions automated and trigger events. When you enter a room, the projector starts. It sends notifications or acts as a loyalty card. If you make a purchase at your local restaurant, beacons help the app register that you were there. On your tenth entry, you get a free latte-awesome!

Security: Whether it’s ensuring patients don’t go in the wrong wing or alerting factory workers to dangerous changes, beacons will automatically send notifications (either to app users or property owners) about a safety issue. Beacons can also be paired with geo fencing to add an additional layer to information security.

Analysis: Data is one of the biggest tools at a company’s disposal. Beacons help generate information on where customers are going or where common issues occur on an assembly line. The online platform will store data on which beacons are being triggered and how users are interacting with them.

Types of Beacons:

The Beacons which are presently available are:

  • Apple iBeacon

Runs on cell battery. Works with Bluetooth enabled android 4.3 and iOS 7 or newer devices.

  • PayPal Beacon

Uses WiFi to transmit phone details to the server, authenticate it at the store, and make payments too.

  • Qualcomm: Gimbal Proximity Beacon

This runs presently on Apple devices due to iOS compatibility. The Android version is also expected soon.

  • Samsung Proximity

Runs on Low Bluetooth energy (Bluetooth 4.0) and doesn’t need a store-specific app to be installed.

  • Google Beacon: Eddystone

A cross-platform beacon capable of supporting Android, iOS or any platform, which supports BLE, beacons. This is available in GitHub under the open-source Apache v2.0 license.

  • Radius RadBeacon and GemTot

This is USB powered and can be broadcasted for a long time.

What are the Advantages of Beacon Technology?

Improved Offline Attribution with Google Ads

By connecting the signals of your beacon to your Google Ads account, gain a lot of helpful insight into your searcher’s offline activity and may even help you track in-store visits. This implies that when you serve your Google search ads, you’ll be able to attribute the number of online users that walk into the store.

Beacon Technology Shopping Mall

Businesses and marketers spend billions each year on their online advertising efforts; therefore, understanding your offline attribution is more vital than ever. Traditionally, it’s been a marketer’s nightmare to understand how their online marketing efforts are linked to offline attribution. However, by tracking key interaction points of users that have clicked on your digital ads you’ll understand how effective your digital ads are at driving customers and sales to your store.

A Typical Example Could Go Like This:

Step 1: User types in search terms “smart black shoes.”

Step 2: Your Google search ad appears.

Step 3: User clicks on the search ad, browses the product, then closes their phone.

Step 4: This user decides they want to try the shoes on before buying, so they walk into your shop.

Step 5: When they enter the shop, their phone picks up an identifier from your shop’s beacon.

Step 6:  The beacon acknowledges that this device is the same one that clicked on your search ad and links this data with your Google Ads account as a “store visit.”

by installing a beacon in your store, you have dramatically improved your attribution modeling. By logging actual store visits from your search ads, this technology can help you understand the impact and effectiveness of your search ads. If you see they’re driving lots of visits to your shop, you may want to invest more in the search.

However, if you find very few users are following up their initial interest with a store visit, then you might not see a large enough ROI from your search ads. By gathering as much information as possible on your marketing activity, you can better understand what’s working for you and what’s not – and you’ll adapt your marketing strategy accordingly.

TL;DR: Beacons don’t guarantee in-store visit tracking, but will help improve measurement if there are already enough quality signals in place. We often struggle with clients who go out, buy a $200 beacon, and then get frustrated that they still don’t meet the criteria for tracking in-store visits.

Out-Of-Store Marketing

It was initially the largest selling point of beacon technology when beacons were released in the Year 2013. Even though out-of-store marketing hasn’t taken off as much as people had expected, it nevertheless has lots of potential for the correct businesses and for marketers willing to invest in it.

Any vital data that you want your potential customers to know can be transmitted directly to any receptive devices that are within the range of your beacon. This might be an easy alert to notify the user that they’re within range of your shop. Alternatively, the alert might be something more complicated, like sending messages related to discounts, loyalty programs, and competitions that you are running. The brands themselves can also push particular product discounts using your in-store beacons.

Beacon Technology Coupon Offer

By using this location-based technology, you’ll personalize your out-of-store marketing, helping you monetize any potential foot traffic. With mobiles currently an integral part of daily life, proximity marketing can only continue to grow. Therefore, implementing it effectively it’ll add another dimension to your digital strategy.

Advanced Data Gathering

The positional accuracy beacons will give you is up for discussion, but it’s clear that this Bluetooth technology is an improvement on other proximity technologies like GPS and WiFi. With this bigger accuracy, you’ll gather a lot of reliable data on how and where your customers are moving throughout your shop.

Beacon Technology Main Street Shops

You can use this information in tandem with your e-commerce stats to adapt and improve your product listings and in-store layout. If you are finding that the majority of your customers are spending their time browsing your homeware section at the back of your store, maybe this space could be expanded or brought to the front. Ultimately, this information could help you refine your customer journey, tailor future marketing campaigns and boost your in-store conversions.

Google My Business Listing Improvement

Installing a beacon in your business will also facilitate your Google My Business listing. The beacon itself will track popular visiting times for your company improving the accuracy shown in the GMB listing. Through Google’s native Guides service you’ll garner more reviews for your business. The beacon will also help you gather many data on check-in and request users to upload photos of the venue.

An up-to-date and detailed GMB listing is essential for native SEO. Therefore, using a beacon will help supercharge your information collection and ensure your Google My Business listing stands out from the rest.

Beacon Technology Google My Business Listing

Customer Advantages

We can see the advantages of beacon technology for the vendor are clear, but we can’t forget about the consumers themselves. Beacons facilitate to improve the user expertise by adding an extra layer of personalized interaction during the shopping experience. Targeted ads and offers from their favorite brands build trust and security. With consumers currently having such a lot selection in the retail market both online and offline, building trust in your brand has never been more important. In a study by PWC this year, they found 35th of consumers ranked ‘trust in brand’ as among their top 3 reasons for purchasing in retail.


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