For Finextra's free daily newsletter, breaking news and flashes and weekly job board.
How is Beacon different from in-store WiFi? Except that WiFi works on any smartphone compared to Bluetooth Low Energy (used in Beacon) which is only available on a few latest models?.. (Google enabled full support of BLE on Android only
two months ago...)
Also, if I am in a "shop-dense" area (e.g. a shopping mall), guess how many competing Beacons will my phone see..
Last, but not least: why would any hacker call his "beacon"
anything else but, say, "Free coffee at Starbucks"?..
Once connected (via open API...), he can have some "fun" with your phone...
The main difference between 'Beacon' and in-store WiFi appears to be a combination of interoperability and convenience for the consumer.
Whilst in-store WiFi may appear to be similar, our friends at Apple have generally prevented this from being used for this purpose as iPhone Apps are not able to access the WiFi information (SSID) that would be required to detect the location.
TagTile is a good example of an established location beacon solution, but they use high-frequency sound that can be detected by the App on the phone, but is inaudible to the human ear.
The key thing that Beacon appears to bring to the table is the fact that the consumer does not need to manually launch the App when they enter the store, thus removing one of the biggest participation / engagement barriers that exists with other similar
The consumer can simply react to the phone vibration, instead of having to proactively use the App.
I am not sure it works that way. If the app is not launched (and no BLE connection is made yet), why would your phone vibrate?..
If you keep the app running, depending on implementation and OS, you can do auto-connect (as Beacon, via cloud, can recognise registered phones).
BTW, Fig Card (which was bought by PayPal back in 2011 and which lead, eventually, to Beacon) did use... WiFi in their USB device.
Also, back then there was a security hole: "if you're standing in line with a friend, and you click 'Ready to pay'
before they do, you could pay their bill for them." Considering that BLE allows multiple simultaneous connections, I guess a similar problem could still be there (hard to comment without knowing full details).
Sorry, I forgot to add just one more word that says it all - iBeacon. Google it!
Fig Card may have used WiFi, but the phone never spoke directly to the POS, instead all communication was via a server and the phone relied on the location to detect nearby POS devices. Unfortunately, GPS locations are not very effective when you're inside
a shopping mall, which is where BLE comes into play.
The key point with Beacon is that the consumer does not have to 'remember' to use the App each and every time they enter the store. It's relatively easy to get a consumer to use an App a few times, but to get them to use the App 'each-and-every' time without
being 'prompted' is an entirely different matter altogether, and that is where Beacon shows promise.
Customers like to be treated like they were well respected, and not like cows that are to be milked. Most people I know would like to browse through shops undisturbed, and to take the initiative themselves when they want service ...
So finding the shop logo on the smartphone's screen when entering a shop, and clicking that logo resulting in a call to a shop attendant should suffice. Shops going for more aggressive methods might actually find themselves chasing away customers.
This post is from a series of posts in the group:
A discussion of trends in innovation management within financial institutions, and the key processes, technology and cultural shifts driving innovation.