Mobile technology and global positioning (GPS) have substantially altered our daily lives from how we communicate, shop, research and travel.
Over 90 percent of Americans own a cell phone, with a majority of devices possessing a built-in GPS capability (The FCC is striving to have all phones possess a GPS capability by 2018 to enhance 911 and emergency communication.). And though mobile devices have been around since the late 1990s, the bulk of mobile sales growth, as well as app and data use, have taken place since 2012. In fact, we are now at a stage where the number of mobile devices outnumbers the number of people on the planet.
How has increased mobile use impacted us?
The impact of this increased mobile use has impacted us significantly. In the last 15 years alone, we have evolved from a society that lived off of accidental discovery to one where our interests are profiled to ensure we receive exactly what we are looking for, when we want it. We no longer have to plan simple interactions in advance, because location-based mobile technology allows us to be more spontaneous and connect with people, places and events as we are on the go.
This increased mobility is a great asset to enhancing our productivity and our lives.
A survey from CIO Insight on US federal government workers and research from Azzurri Communications on businesses in the UK both reported increased worker productivity when people used their mobile devices. Over 90 percent of businesses reported increases, while people self-reported their perception that additional mobile technology and use could further improve their productivity.
Mobile also allows us to be more hyper-local than at any time in history. We can find events around us based on our mood using apps like Gravy, we can identify traffic jams and speed traps using community-based reporting via Waze, and we can subscribe to mobile apps that send out push notifications based on our location to alert us about everything from sales to weather alerts to mobile and desktop emergency notifications.
But let’s not stop there.
Over the last couple of years, the growing use of beacon technology is allowing us to be reached at an even more micro-level, moving us beyond GPS and geo-fences created by wifi hotspots. In short, mobile can now place us at a specific indoor location, identifying us by what aisle, classroom or office we are in.
What are beacons?
The beacon technology started to become available several years ago, but it was not until the past year or two when broader experiments in retail have been conducted. In short, beacons are just small devices that send out signals for your cell phone to receive. Your cell phone has many different capabilities to receive signals such as wifi triangulation, GPS, Bluetooth, near field communication (NFC) and radio. Apple, for example, created its iBeacon based off Bluetooth Low Energy Standard and kicked off retail partnerships (initially in grocery) to test its system. Radio beacons are one of the most cost-effective and easiest to deploy.
Why are beacons and micro-location alerts the next frontier for mobile?
The goal of a beacon is to reach a much shorter proximity of distance. Unlike GPS, which requires a clear line of sight from the sky to enable transmissions from satellites, beacons are designed to reach you indoors in a smaller area. The advantage of beacon technology is that it enables more specific device targeting and increases personalization in communication.
Here are some of scenarios where micro-location notifications can enhance communication:
- Sports teams are always looking for ways to enhance the in-game experience for fans, especially since the cost of attending events has risen dramatically. Beacons allow teams to reach people at a seat-level with promotions, game-time statistics and interactive campaigns.
- Google already has indoor maps for airports and shopping malls. With beacons, stores can help customers navigate large facilities, as well as and identify sales or items they are looking for based on shopping lists and buying habits. Retailers also can use beacons to zero-in with coupons.
- Social activities also can be enhanced using beacons. Scavenger hunts, nightclubs and concert halls all can maximize micro-location alerts to help ensure you are connecting with your next mission or with people you are trying to meet.
- Emergency mass notification solution provider, ReachPlus, recently released its micro-location alerts which enable companies, hospitals and schools to target all mobile devices in specific conference rooms, patient rooms or classrooms. By allowing alerts to be sent to such approximate locations, you can provide more detailed information and better protect people.
Mobile devices are continuing to become more powerful, and their adoption into our personal and professional lives has made them essential. With companies like Google, Apple, ReachPlus and more expanding the use of beacons for micro-location alerts and notifications, we can expect to see this technology grow in use and emerge as the next frontier for mobile app developers.