In the past, you had to rely on complex maps and atlases to make a summer road trip. Then, GPS came along and revolutionized wayfinding. You no longer had to ask locals for directions; instead you could rely on your GPS to get you to just about any destination.
But while GPS changed outdoor navigation, indoor navigation was another story. Due to obstruction, it can be difficult to get a good signal from a satellite. However, beacons are providing a new Internet of Things solution both for indoor wayfinding and business analytics.
Apple originally came up with the idea that you can use “a number of simple machines, and record the position of where these beacons have been deployed,” said Guylain Roy MacHabée, president and CEO of Rx Networks. Beacons are Bluetooth-enabled devices that can be placed throughout a retail environment.
Rx Networks has developed a cloud-based solution for its Fathom beacons that enables companies to remotely manage and trigger the beacons. Companies can also use the system to detect additional Bluetooth activity within the building.
There are a variety of ways you can use beacons for your kiosks, retailers and analytics.
You can use your kiosk as a beacon, since it is a device that typically stays in one spot. You can also gather customer analytics from the kiosk by logging how many customers approach the kiosk daily. With this, you can make improvements to your kiosk if it is not attracting as many customers as it should.
On a kiosk app level, you can also use beacons to power wayfinding software on your kiosk, or on a smartphone app. In a hospital or large retail environment, customers might use a kiosk to discover the best route to their destination within the complex.
According to MacHabée, the retail environment is the “most natural” place for beacons. There are a variety of ways retailers can use beacons. They might employ them for something as simple as a wayfinding solution, or use them to monitor customer movements and push out special promotions to their phones.
Other retailers might use it as a way to maximize the effectiveness of employee presence. For example, if the retailer finds out that a lot of people gather in the electronics section, the retailer might consider sending more employees down to that section to aid customers.
Beacons can provide valuable traffic information for retailers. With retail, location is king, and if you don’t know where your customers are, you can’t be certain that you have the right products in front of them.
Also, according to MacHabée, a beacon solution like Fathom can detect other nearby Bluetooth-enabled devices. For example, he said, “[A] loyalty app can sense proximity to a shoe beacon. You inherently have that granular information.”
With so many potential uses, beacons can be of great value in the IoT. However, according to MacHabée, we are only seeing the first wave of IoT uses. In the long term, a solution like Fathom could be used in tandem with a variety of more complex devices working within the Internet of Things to tap into the “Intelligence of Things.”
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