You have probably heard of or interacted with bluetooth beacons without even realizing it. Beacons, also known as “proximity beacons” are wireless transmitters that use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to transmit signals to nearby devices. Beacons continually advertise their presence and provide detailed information when an interested device, like your phone, initiates a connection. Beacon technology has opened the door for improving the user experience in a variety of industries such as travel and retail.

Beacons may be deployed either to notify an app when it comes within range, like a user approaching an exhibit at a museum, or they could be placed on a moving asset whose location could be tracked by stationary or moving monitor devices. For example, you could place beacons in an industrial warehouse to track a pallet of goods as it moves throughout the facility.

Beacons are great for proximity detection and they operate for a long period of time with very low power consumption. Additionally, the price ranges between $5 and $30 depending on the signal range, batteries used, and battery life. These devices are relatively inexpensive.

Illustration of a woman holding a phone with a beacon technology notification triggered by a nearby museum exhibit

How Beacon Technology Works 

The process is initiated when the app receives a signal from a nearby beacon. Beacons broadcast data packets, which devices can collect and analyze to extract information about the surrounding area. The data packets have unique ID numbers that correspond to specific beacons. Once the device connects, the beacon carries out the function that is programmed for that environment. For example, the beacon may send the user an informative message or the beacon could send the server information about the user.

There are a number of ways to gather information about a user’s location. You may use GPS, Wi-Fi, or beacons. Each of these techniques has their limitations, so the best solution may be to use all three. Beacons are best for identifying users at close proximity, while Wi-Fi and GPS are best at basic location tracking. GPS has problems indoors and other similarly obstructed areas. Location accuracy using WiFi works pretty well nowadays, but requires a strong connection. Since beacons rely on proximity, the accuracy improves as the device gets closer to the beacon technology. This is especially useful for things like point-of-sale systems where you need to be absolutely sure you are communicating with the right device. 

For as long as smartphones have been around, people have talked about the possibilities of proximity marketing, which is the localized wireless distribution of advertising content associated with a particular place. Beacons are a key component to realizing this concept, and many companies are already putting into practice.

Beacon Technology Benefits 

Beacon technology can be leveraged and applied a number of ways: 

    • Beacons can be used for proximity marketing to trigger push notifications that contain special offers when a patron walks by a retail store.
    • Beacon technology has the ability to disable apps for situations where distractions should be limited, such as classrooms or conferences.
    • Beacon technology can aid the visually impaired by giving audible directions and information about their surroundings.
    • Beacon technology can help a variety of industries increase customer engagement by providing their customers relevant information at the right time.

Beacon Technology In The Retail Industry

Beacons can detect the name and buying history of those nearby to offer products or services that they might be interested in. Retailers can connect with shoppers before they enter the store and provide them with customized content and personalized notifications. 

By collecting data from beacons, retail companies can also detect which areas of the store receive the most traffic and understand what their consumers are most interested in. A retailer can leverage this information to strategically place promotional content or new products.

Beacons can be strategically implemented throughout a retail location to increase sales. A business can offer coupons or deals to shoppers as they walk past specific products. Picture this, you’re walking through a department store and find a pair of shoes you really like, but the price seems to be a little high. Then, all of a sudden you receive a notification with a coupon for 20% off. How likely are you to buy the shoes now!?

For internal operations, beacons can be used to improve inventory management and asset tracking as products move throughout the factory or warehouse. A business can maximize the efficiency of their operations and minimize the margin of error during the fulfillment process.

watch with signal connecting to phone

Beacon Technology In The Travel Industry 

Airports are using beacon technology to provide directions to points of interest and to help manage the flow of traffic; directing or moving passengers to less crowded security lines in order to minimize wait times. 

Miami International Airport uses beacon technology to give passengers personalized updates, directions, and tips based on where they are located in the airport. They have beacon zones throughout the terminals, baggage claims, the sky train, and parking lots to facilitate the process of navigating through the airport. This takes a lot of stress out of the traveling experience.

Beacon Technology In The Hospitality Industry

The hospitality industry can benefit tremendously from beacon technology as it can provide travelers that are new to the area with relevant information on nearby restaurants, attractions, and other points of interest. Beacon technology in larger resorts can help guests find their room and navigate around the property. This is especially useful when there’s international guests that may not speak the local language. Beacons can overcome the language barrier by providing information in a guest’s native language. 

Beacons can also eliminate the need to wait in long lines for check-in and check-out. Once a guest enters the hotel, the beacon can connect to their mobile device, notify the hotel that the guest has arrived, and then send the guest a push notification to confirm the check-in process. Based on the guest’s reservation, the beacon can distribute data (i.e. resort information, special offers, green fees etc.) that may be of interest to the guest. 

If you’re interested in growing your business, need a new marketing strategy, or want to maximize your user experience, then beacon technology may be a good fit for your business. If you’re interested in learning more, please email our President, Marc Alringer – malringer@seamgen.com – and he’d love to discuss how this technology could have a positive impact on your business. Cheers!