Monday, September 8, 2014

iBeacons aren't just for big Retail

By Paul Chen

Demystifying the iBeacons for SME's

So you have probably heard a lot about the iBeacon for a while now.  And the Internet of Things will be taking over the world and enhance how we live our lives.  TechCrunch recently labeled Krakow as some sort of Beacon Valley. Here we have Estimote and Both Estimote and would like to boast about their big clients like Virgin Atlantic in Heathrow, Toronto's Eaton Centre,  the Gap, and Siemens. Recently, there have been a lot of press about Estimote's Sticker Dev kit and's Cloud Beacon. However, do you know that you can implement your own beacon customer service strategy?  Costs start at just under $100.  This guide will be your cheat sheet in implementing iBeacons in your small to medium retail establishment.  Just be warned that you might not be able to implement it overnight.  Some time will be needed, anywhere from a week to a month.
Let's get Started
First thing you have to do is to decide how you want to interact with your customers.  
Do you want to just tell them about the products you have or some special sales?  Do you want them to have the option of ordering or paying using their mobile devices?  Do you want to keep track of how they move around the store so you can plan your store layout more effectively?  Do you want them to be able to order food using their mobile device?  These are some questions you must answer before you do anything else.  
For some inspiration, watch the video below:

As you see the beacon is a device that pushes notifications to someone's mobile device be it a smartphone or a tablet and pretty soon a smartwatch.  The beacon does not have all the content inside the small module.  It simply sends out a Bluetooth signal to a smart device to display a certain piece of content. This piece of content can be information or it can be some sort of advert.  It can be as simple as a picture or up to a whole mobile webpage with all the interactive elements.  
Order the Estimote Beacon dev kit
The options on how to actually implement can be budget dependent.  If your budget is limited, then you will have to find a tech savvy friend who is generous with his or her time.  If you are lucky enough to have such a friend then all you need to do is to order a certain number of sets of beacons depending on your requirements.  If you don't have a friend like that you will need to hire or outsource a developer to help you.   You can find one locally through search engines like Google then order your beacons.   If you have a small store one set may be enough.  Bigger stores may need more than one set.  You may not order beacons individually.  A set of the developer's kit contains three (3) beacons.  You may order Estimote beacons here.  

Okay, so I have my beacons, now what?
After your get your beacons, you will need to create an app for your store.  There are different ways you can create the app.   There are three options: 1. You can hire a developer. 2. You can integrate your beacons with Apple's Passbook. 3. You can subscribe to a ready app. Passbook can be quite easy to use and more and more developers offer an app subscription option for small retails. Apple's Passbook is recommended due to the fact that it is already compatible with Estimote's beacons and is native for iPhones.

For the beacons to work, your developer will need to use Estimote’s SDK. In layman's terms, the SDK helps the devices determine what happens when they interact with softwares. Note that using other beacon SDK, you won’t have access to some of Estimote Beacons features like using built-in accelerometer or temperature sensor.
You will need to work with your developer to decide how the app will work and how it will look.   The Passbook will guide you through the process.  Once the app is ready and after a few successful tests have been done, you are ready to go.   
How do you manage the beacons?
The current batch of beacons use the Bluetooth Smart (Bluetooth Low Energy) 4.0.  It means the use of the battery is quite low.  One cell size battery will last for about 2 years depending how often you push your content.  The drain on your smart device is minimal.  The thing that will eat up all your battery is the internet be it 3G or Wifi.  Additionally, you will need to give each beacon a task to do. Remember, context is really important.  These tasks can range from displaying an ad to allowing the customer to settle his or her bill through a payment service.  Currently, Estimote is working with Canada’s nTrust.        

And the content?
To change the content pushed by the beacon, you will need to change the content via cloud solution.  New content will be updated  within 30 seconds in the background while in WiFi or cell network range. If content is hardcoded in the app, an AppStore update might be necessary. For example a new function that you need an app upgrade could be the ability to pay using the smart device and new info pushed from the cloud might be this week's specials.  Contents and functions can be changed via the editor's panel in Passbook or getting your developer friend to do the changes.  
If you have any more questions, you may contact your beacon provider's community managers.

Thank you for reading another one of my posts done just for you!  If you liked what you read please share it by using one of the buttons up top and check out other posts in this blog.  I don’t want you to miss out on future posts so please follow me on Twitter @Eurodude23 If you haven’t done it already, please like my fan page by clicking here See you next time!

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