There’s a lot going on in the world of Bluetooth LE technology – or iBeacon, if you buy into the way Apple has managed to blanket the term for an entire industry.
This weekend the Superbowl will be supplemented in the New York area with personalized advertising alerts for visitors to Times Square and MetLife Stadium. It’s a great example of using iBeacons for event-based marketing – something easily facilitated by the low-cost transmitters.
Last week, we learned that Major League Baseball will move from a pilot of iBeacon tech to rolling out thousands of the little devices to 20 stadiums nationwide.
A List of iBeacon Uses
But sports aren’t the only examples of how Bluetooth LE beacons will help your phone know what it’s close to – and deliver personalized content and offers as a result.
Mobisfera has done some great leg work keeping track of it all – posting a list of iBeacon projects that have made the news. They’re inviting developers, brands and retailers to keep the list updated.
But there’s also a less visible movement going on. One where retailers and venues are quietly rolling out iBeacon technology but not making a big deal out of their presence in your local mall.
In part this might be because of privacy concerns amongst consumers and media outlets. The New York Times article about beacons at the Superbowl being one example of how every proximity story seems to be accompanied by a privacy and surveillance footnote.
But there’s another reality at play as well: namely, that while those of us in the ‘beacon industry’ might be hyper-aware of iBeacon and proximity technology, most consumers won’t be.
In many cases, the user experience won’t draw attention to the beacons at all. If it’s done elegantly you might vaguely wonder how your app got so ‘smart’ but you’ll be more delighted with the value and service you get than the fact you were pushed a coupon for cookies right in front of the cookie aisle.
At its best, iBeacon technology can help deliver the paradigm of calm computing – first proposed in 1996 out of Xerox PARC:
Technologies encalm as they empower our periphery. This happens in two ways. First, as already mentioned, a calming technology may be one that easily moves from center to periphery and back. Second, a technology may enhance our peripheral reach by bringing more details into the periphery….This is encalming when the enhanced peripheral reach increases our knowledge and so our ability to act without increasing information overload.
The result of calm technology is to put us at home, in a familiar place. When our periphery is functioning well we are tuned into what is happening around us, and so also to what is going to happen, and what has just happened. This is a key property of information visualization techniques like the cone tree, that are filled with detail yet engage our pre-attentive periphery so we are never surprised. The periphery connects us effortlessly to a myriad of familiar details. This connection to the world we called “locatedness”, and it is the fundamental gift that the periphery gives us.
Not every iBeacon project will make the front page of the New York Times. And not every iBeacon experience will draw attention to itself in the eyes of the consumer.
The very best experiences will provide a periphery or ambient layer of information that helps the user feel calm, connected through ‘locatedness’ and non-threatened by a new source of information overload.