7 iBeacon Myths Deconstructed

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iBeacon technology has been around for a while now, but there is still a lot of confusion and misleading information about the concept in the media and public opinion. Let’s try to deconstruct a few of those and bring a little more light into the topic.

 

Myth 1 – Beacons track you

 

Beacons DO NOT TRACK you, your activity or personal details. Beacons are transmitter only devices that don’t receive or collect any information. All they do is just broadcast a preconfigured data packet several times a second containing a set of numbers. Mobile phones and apps running on them are in fact the ones that can detect beacons when in range and deliver contextually relevant experiences.

Beacons don't track people, apps track people #iBeacon Click To Tweet

 

Myth 2 – Beacons deliver content

 

Beacons don’t transmit content, they just broadcast a set of unique parameters, thus enabling apps to provide proximity-relevant content to its users. The content that shows up on your smartphone’s screen comes not directly from the beacon, but usually from a back-end service that an app on your phone uses. Beacons’ broadcasts are simply used by apps on your phone to deliver tailored content – that might be information about the museum exhibit you are standing in front, or a coupon for an item on your shopping list, when in store. That is the reason beacons and iBeacon technology in particular to be considered a great enabler of proximity-related interactions.

#iBeacon technology enables great proximity-related experiences Click To Tweet

 

Myth 3 – Beacons only work with iPhone

 

iBeacon is indeed an Apple trademark, however the underlying technology is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). This simply means that any BLE enabled device – smartphone, tablet or laptop – and running at least iOS 7 or Android 4.3+ can detect beacons when in range. Furthermore, beacons are starting to show up everywhere, so expect to see them not only in Apple technology products, but also in wearables, home automation products, vehicles and more.

#iBeacon technology works on any BLE enabled device Click To Tweet

 

Myth 4 – Beacons drain phone batteries faster

 

Battery lifetime of your smartphone is not affected by beacons around you. True, in order to be able to detect iBeacon devices the Bluetooth on your smartphone must be on, so there is some energy lost. Remember however that iBeacon technology uses BLE, which is a very energy efficient version of Bluetooth so in reality there is a very minor battery loss.

Keeping Bluetooth on for #iBeacon has a very mild effect on your smartphone battery Click To Tweet

 

Myth 5 – Beacons only work indoors

 

Although tooted as the indoor GPS, thus suggesting indoor only use cases, there is no limitation to where beacons can be placed. In fact more and more businesses realize that it’s the proximity aspect of the technology that matters most, not it’s ability to determine location.

 

Myth 6 – Beacons can be used to locate people and things with arbitrary accuracy

 

Figuring out correct location indoors is usually done via triangulation by estimating distance to several known sources. In iBeacon’s case unfortunately estimating distance is not very reliable. Using a very low powered signal means great battery life, but it also has its disadvantages. Beacons’ signals are easily reflected off surfaces, attenuated in people and objects and easily affected by environmental factors such as humidity and temperature. So in reality accuracy achieved by solely iBeacon powered indoor location services is usually in the range of 2-5 meters (6-15 feet) – good enough for general positioning but not nearly as impressive when better accuracy is needed.

Beacons are affected by environmental factors - don't rely on accuracy Click To Tweet

 

Myth 7 – Beacons are useful in retail only

 

While the iBeacon technology has been often called the future of retail, its uses expand way beyond retail. These days brands are testing and implementing beacon powered solutions in airports, sport venues, museums, hotels, restaurants and more. The possibilities are limitless, as more and more people come up with ideas how to use iBeacon technology to power the next generation of proximity enabled experiences.

#iBeacon technology is used to power the next generation of proximity enabled experiences Click To Tweet

 

In this new technological era is important to be aware of these main pitfalls when approaching an iBeacon project. We hope we have managed to shed some light on the subject.

 

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Vladimir Petrov

Coder, Geek, Entrepreneur, co-founder of Blue Sense Networks