– The Limits and Possibilities of Beacon Services –
In the first installment of this series, we discussed the definition of beacon and how beacon emerged from the offline market crisis. In this installment, we will take a look at some of the limits of beacon services and the future possibilities of beacon development. The iBeacon function for iOS 7 was announced last year and since then there has been growing interest in the business world. But what is the reason for the relatively slow rise of beacon in the market? And why is the retail industry hesitant to implement beacon services? I have outlined 3 obstacles to the growth of beacon services below.
- Beacon, Averting the Offline Market Crisis! (Part1):
Beacon Service Obstacles: The End User’s Perspective
The primary service of BLE Beacon is offering coupons to customers according to their location. This service allows users to receive coupons for stores that they are in or stores that they are near and notifies them of sales or discounts at those stores. This notification service is most useful for businesses wanting to make potential customers aware of their products. But in the mind of the user, this is not always a desired service.
Most businesses use advertisements to promote their own brand, products, or services. Among these advertisements, flyer distribution may perhaps be the most common. In this case, you can say that beacon services are offering a smart era version of the traditional flyer. This is a fast and inexpensive way to promote a business to customers. So, this is a very attractive service for businesses. However, end users could feel apprehension towards being exposed to this type of service. Users may feel uncomfortable about having their location information revealed. Notifications from this type of service could also be consider as nothing more than spam.
Therefore, introducing beacon services as this type of promotion tool for businesses will not yet work. New ways to implement this service so that it is advantageous to the users must be investigated.
Beacon Service Obstacles: The Customer’s ‘User Experience’
As you remember, in the first part of this service we looked at the fundamentals of beacon. There are 3 conditions required in order to be able to implement this service to customers.
* Fundamentals of Beacon: A signal is sent from a Smartphone with the required application installed to a beacon management server via Bluetooth once the ID signal from the Smartphone is detected within the server range. The location of the Smartphone is registered and services (messages, coupons, etc.) are sent to the Smartphone from stores are business in the vicinity.
- Conditions for Beacon Service
1) The customer’s smartphone must have iOS 7 or later or Android 4.3 or later installed
2) Bluetooth must be activated on the customer’s smartphone
3) The customer’s smartphone must be installed with a service application that includes Beacon SDK
These conditions bring up another issue for businesses. They must deal with the conditions that the customer must have the latest OS, Bluetooth enable and a new application installed. Users already have various commonly used applications (portal, social etc.) and there is concern that users will be hesitant to install new applications. There is another obstacle that relates to Bluetooth as users often turn Bluetooth off when they do not intend on using it.
Not long ago, there was news that beacon technology would be developed to be compatible with versions previous to Android 4.3 with an SD Card (Secure Digital Card) but this service had severe effects on battery life and ultimately was deemed impractical.
Beacon Service Obstacles: Technological Limitations
In order to understand the limits of beacon services we must first have a clear understanding of BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy). Follow the link below to learn about Bluetooth signal range, speed and other information about Bluetooth.
- Further information on Bluetooth: http://www.bluetooth.com
Today we will look at the technological limits of beacon for Android OS users. Since 90% of smartphone users in Korea use Android OS, it is necessary to support Android in the Korean market.
So, let’s take a look at a comparison of beacon tests for Android and iOS. The experiment was carried out as shown below. The exact same application was installed on the 2 devices and the devices were placed on a table. The beacon was then moved away from the devices. The researchers then monitored how the applications on each of the devices detected the beacon.
You can see the results of the test in the image above. The iPhone detected the signal continuously in a straight line all the way out to the ‘Far’ region. However, the Android device experienced a phenomenon where the signal was only detected at the borders of the ‘Near’, ‘Immediate’ and ‘Far’ regions and continued to jump back and forth between regions. In the end, the Android signal was found to be unstable and made providing service relating to proximity difficult on Android. The Android signal was also found to be unstable when measured with a RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator). We can clearly see that the Android is much less stable than the iPhone in this respect.
The reason for this phenomenon is that the standard for supporting beacon services for each of the Os is different. Apple’s iBeacon allows users to receive beacon services whether the application is enabled or not. But with Android, the application consumes too much of the battery and there are errors that occur when the application is enabled in the background. Android appears to be too unstable to deliver these services. For this reason, Qualcomm subsidiary, Gimbal, has not exclusively implemented Android and is still not distributing the Android SDK (Software Development Kit).
We have now reviewed 3 obstacles to the growth of beacon services. Beacon is still an incomplete service with several limitations. However, Gartner, ABI Research and other global research organizations have determined that beacon services still required attention. The reason for this is because beacon still possesses potential for location detection. Companies that have high expectation for beacon services are looking to solve the issues mentioned above, find a clear value for the customer and discover ways to offer a convenient user experience.
This is the conclusion of our look at the limits of beacon services and their potential. In the third installment of this series, we will look at what products are implementing beacon services and see some example of how beacons are being implemented.
Written by Young-joo Kim, LG CNS Communications Media Center