Will iBeacons change the way we eat and shop?

7th February 2014

The 3Squared team are never far away when a new product or technology is launched. From Raspberry Pi to Google Glass, our team of developers and self-confessed geeks want to get their hands on it to see how it can help our clients and the software we produce.


So when some Qualcomm Gimbal beacons arrived in our office, post-work plans were binned and the pizza was ordered. Proximity beacons are the low-energy alternative to Near Field Communications, that can be positioned in indoor locations and communicate with other devices.

Changing the face of retail

The technology is set to change the way consumers shop, eat and see adverts, with retailers in particular looking to install beacons in shops that will allow shoppers to receive offers, open a tab and pay for their purchases on their smartphone.

Bluetooth technology has been used in devices for nearly a decade to wirelessly communicate with other Bluetooth-enabled devices, however the technology has traditionally sapped battery power from devices. Bluetooth Low Energy technology has considerably reduced both cost and power consumption, making it a viable way for devices to interconnect.

NFC is already being used by a number smartphone manufacturers, but is limited by its range, which requires it to be within a few centimetres of another device or NFC tag. In contrast, Proximity beacons have a much bigger range, which some manufacturers claim is up to 50m.

Another major issue is that NFC chips have yet to be included in Apple products. That is unlikely to change thanks to iBeacon, given Apple’s usual reluctance to let other companies or outside technology have an influence on their own products.

GimbalQualcomm Gimbal

The 3Squared team would be working with the Series 10 Gimbal Proximity Beacon, manufactured by Qualcomm, which is just 40mm long and 5.6mm deep and can be powered for a year with a single CR2032 replaceable battery. Our developers soon got to work on the beacons, dreaming up ways that it could be used in our existing and future software and application projects.

Aside from the obvious retail uses, proximity beacons have the potential to be used across a range of industries, in most cases, in an attempt to get consumers to part with their cash. Restaurants, museums, events, sport stadiums. Just about anywhere you can place a beacon where potential customers may be in close proximity.

Of course, push notifications can always be turned off, but consumer’s privacy must always be considered, with advertisers cautious of negative effects of potentially intrusive notifications.

The Superbowl, one of the world’s biggest events for advertisers, was a recent success story for iBeacons. Dozens of beacons were dotted around both Times Square and the MetLife Stadium in New York, host of this year’s event, with messages sent to sports fans promoting merchandise, exhibits and offering advice on how to make the most of the day.

Our app developers are looking forward to incorporating beacons into future projects across all platforms that will help our clients connect better with both their staff and customers.

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