iBeacon, retail-beacon for the future

iBeacon, a (relatively) small feature within Apple’s new operatingssystem iOS7, is possibly going to change the future in the retailmarket. Apple offered it virtually no attention during the release of their new operatingsystem, but now the many possibillities of iBeacons are creating a worldwide buzz. First of all, what are iBeacons actually?


The story behind iBeacons

Apple’s most recent technology (iBeacons) are based on recent developments in the worldwide known Bluetooth technology. A recent upgrade makes it possible to transmit low-energy bluetooth signals (Bluetooth Smart/Bluetooth Low Energy). This newer version of Bluetooth provides compatible devices with the capacity to transmit these low energy signals without consuming a lot of the battery’s capacity. This saves a lot of energy and makes it possible to leave your bluetooth ‘on’ for the entire day. Although these signals consume significantly less energy, the new technology does not affect the size of the range these signals can be transmitted. Until now, most bluetooth traffic was focussed on letting a carkit and your smartphone work together, or to send some pictures/files to other phones. Because it was energyconsuming, people tended to only turn it on when they needed it.  


What are iBeacons?

iBeacons are small devices that transmit Bluetooth LE signals. Smartphones can easily detect these signals. An additional function of iBeacons is that it can detect the distance between the transmitter and receiver. This makes it possible to track people’s locations. An iBeacon detects three different kinds of ranges, far, medium and close. This kind of possibillities provide a retailer with a great amount of options.


Possibilities iBeacon

iBeacon in use;  An illustrated example

In the next few paragraphs we will provide you with a fictitious story about a small amount of iBeacons possibillities. In this case the retailer just got a brand new sweater in his store. He is located in a big shoppingmall, but with limited shopwindows. Understandably, he wants to inform customers about this brand new sweater. He Googles certain ways to reach his potential customers on an innovative and creative way, he ends up with iBeacons and decides to use them in his store. He hires LiveWall to set up three iBeacons in his store, and decides to give each one a different ‘message’. Beacon nr1 is placed near the shops front doorn and is set up to broadcast as much and as far as possible.  Beacon 2 is placed near the sweater inside the shop. Customers in close vecinity of the sweater receive a message with information and tips on how to combine the sweater with other clothes.  Beacon 3 is placed near the cashregister, and provides people with a personal discount when they buy the sweater.


The retailer is pleased with his setup and starts the day full with confidence. He is convinced the introduction will be a great succes. Meanwhile the mall is opening and loads of non-suspecting customers start to enter the mall. iBeacon nr 1 is switched on, and it starts sending lots and lots of informational messages about the new sweater. An iBeacons maximum range in which it can transmit is 50 meters, so it doesn’t take long for the first customers to get notified. The shopper receives information about the sweater together with a promotional slogan.


The first enthousiastic shoppers are starting to enter the store, iBeacon transmitter nr 1 notices that people who where far away are now in the closest range. It sends them another message “The sweater is located near the end of the shop”. Once people have arrived at the sweaters location, iBeacon nr 2 sends the information about the sweater together with tips on how to combine the sweater with other clothes. The first people decide to buy the sweater.


At the cashregister, iBeacon nr3 comes in the action, and sends the message: Put your phone on the counter and receive a 15% discount. People are amazed by this new technology and are happy to receive the discount. After his lunchbreak the retailer decides to switch off the iBeacons and to call the company that makes the sweater. “Hello, is there something wrong?” a lady answers, “No” says the retailer, “But i am going to need more sweaters, they already sold out.”


By: Mick Steffens



The newest Android and iOS smartphones are equipped with iBeacon technology. The iPhone goes as far back as the 4S and Samsungs Galaxy models go as far back as the S4.