iBeacons, BLE, Bluetooth

Thoughts By 3 years ago

All are trending keywords at the moment, but are they all they promise to be. Ill explain what the technology is, how it works, and how quickly it will fail if we it’s done wrong.

All smartphones are bluetooth enabled and traditionally bluetooth was a way to pair an audio headpiece to your phone. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is now enabled in most new smartphones, and it will easily pair to a device with one simple step and use very little battery.

iBeacons or Bluetooth Beacons (Same thing), are a tiny bluetooth transponder that connects to smartphones that are equipped with BLE. On the condition the phone has an app that gives permission for the iBeacon to connect, they will pair automatically.

What does this mean for real life? As a customer of a bank, you have the banking App on your phone, you walk into a branch past an iBeacon, which quickly pairs with your phone. Your phone then welcomes you to the branch through the App and tells you the approximate wait time. 20 minutes, ill quickly go to the shops and come back.

This can be achieved today, by allowing the baking App to monitor your location all the time, and use a geofence around every branch to trigger a notification. The problem is this drains the battery of the user very quickly, and being followed all the time is creepy (and ill likely revoke location permission from the App anyway).

Why it might fail

At a recent conference I presented at, with lots of agency types in attendance, there was a lot of chatter about iBeacons being the new way to attract new customers. A world where beacons (that cost <$10 a unit) are placed behind every ad, in every shop, under every park bench. A world where the public is constantly interrupted by notifications, brands trying to grab their attention.

If this happens, people will switch off Bluetooth and that is game over for the technology.

Getting it right

It is all of our responsibility to make sure we get it right, and ensure the technology actually becomes mainstream. Beautifully integrated applications that enhance the experience of your customer are great. Blatant advertising will spark the end of BLE and iBeacons.