iBeacon technology is being touted as the Next Big Thing for the meetings and events industry. But, despite its obvious potential, the hype around the technology exceeds the reality of the device.
An iBeacon does not know where you are. It doesn’t even know where it is. Imagine being blindfolded, bundled into the boot of a car, driven to a completely unfamiliar location and abandoned. All you can do is scream and hope somebody hears. This sounds extreme, but it pretty accurately describes an iBeacon on an event stand: an individual device, stuck in an unknown location, continuously broadcasting a signal in the hope that someone can hear it – nothing more.
So how can such an ‘un-smart’ device attract so much attention? Each iBeacon has a unique identifier: if you know where you placed it and can specify this on a floor plan, then any device picking up its signal can be located to within a few metres. You won’t learn this from the iBeacon itself, that comes from the intelligence built into the app on the smartphone – manufacturers provide a Software Development Kit that allows people to use iBeacon information in smart ways.
In this way, iBeacons provide a solution for the challenge of tracking attendees’ movements at an event. Compared to the combination of cell data; indoor GPS; and Wi-Fi triangulation, iBeacons offer a real opportunity to add that missing location information and give a more complete understanding of the attendee journey.
This is not to say that iBeacons don’t have the potential to further enhance the event experience. Quite the reverse. But if we’re going to discuss the merits of iBeacons, let’s start with a clear view of the facts, instead of being blinded by the hype.