What the heck is... beacon technology

25th June 2019
What the heck is... beacon technology

Beacon technology is one of the simplest yet most effective ways of connecting people to specific locations.

While GPS is best used for outdoor navigation, it generally has an accuracy of about 10 metres, which isn’t very accurate for internal use (such as finding your way around a building).

This is where beacons excel.

Beacons are very basic radio transmitters. They can be configured to emit a radio signal a few times every second with a unique identifier encoded in it, which can then be decoded by other pieces of technology, such as phones.

This means that multiple times per second, your phone can be triangulated by the beacons, which can then tell the phone where it is (in relation to the entire map of beacons) and send certain signals based on your very exact location.

While the beacon itself is a simple enough system, the clever stuff happens in the mobile apps that can be programmed to pick up these signals. 

Brands have been playing around with what beacons can do for a long time, which in turn has brought a lot of variety to the tech landscape.

Using a custom app which integrated with the passenger’s booking details, Virgin Atlantic used beacon technology at Heathrow Airport to offer a portable PA experience. When the passenger entered a waiting lounge, the app would tell them what on-flight entertainment awaited them; when they passed exchange booths, the app would tell them the shop’s exchange rate; when they were entering security, the app would automatically show their boarding pass.

We see beacons being used a lot in retail stores to try and increase store visitors and push promotions to passers-by, as well as offering wayfinding services in massive buildings.

Having worked with Vodafone during the massive move-in of 1,800 employees into a newly-refurbished, 18,000m2 office, we needed to use beacons to their max potential to make life for the employees easier.

Through the triangulation of beacons, the Vlife app offered a wayfinding map system, and a personalised notification system (when the employee arrived at work, the app would send a notification asking the employee whether they wanted to pre-order their favourite food for lunchtime).

Beacons, although simple, allow brands to offer personalised services both to their customers and employees.

If beacons could improve your business’ offering, don’t hesitate to get in touch!