Using the latest smartphone ‘beacon’ functionality, a Polish startup has set out to help retailers provide their customers with a new in-store purchasing experience
GPS-localisation, sending SMS messages, and push notifications to mobile devices are some of the ways store owners can entice consumers to their points of sale. But do the retailers really know what their customers are doing once inside the store? We do not need to remind readers that GPS signals cannot pass through solid objects such as the walls of buildings, while Near Field Communication (NFC) only works within a range of a few centimetres. Now however, Estimote, a Polish startup which is also partly based in California, has come up with an interesting solution. It has developed a very small, wireless beacon, aka a 'mote', based on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, which can be installed in stores to send customers personalised micro-location-based notifications in real time according to where they are in the store and what they are doing at that moment.
Wide range of potential applications
The Estimote beacons are designed to work with the store’s app, which the customer has already downloaded on to his/her mobile device. They have a range of up to 50 metres, and can communicate between each other in order to track a customer’s actions in-store. Then for example, if a customer spends 20 minutes trying on clothing without apparently buying anything, the app might be prompted by the store’s beacon system to offer a price reduction coupon on selected products. In the same way, an IKEA customer will no longer have to note down all those complicated names on a piece of paper, as the ‘motes’ connected with the brand’s app enable automatic recording of all the articles which a customer pays particular attention to – i.e. when s/he stops in front of them and/or touches them. Meanwhile Estimote provides the retailer with a detailed breakdown on customer behaviour in the store – the average amount of time spent at each display, and so on.
iBeacons set to supplant NFC technology?
Estimote’s idea of offering retailers small wireless peripherals containing BLE chips that can be installed at a point of sale in order to provide iPhone 5 users with an immersive shopping experience has clearly impressed the professionals. The concept recently won the young Polish company the award for Best Hardware Startup at the Tech Crunch Disrupt event in San Francisco. In fact the ‘motes’ could well take off very fast as they use the brand-new Apple iBeacons functionality, which is supported by the iOS 7 operating system used for the iPhone 5C and the IPhone 5S. This system enables the iPhone to communicate with all types of connected objects through BLE. This new technology, which allows an iOS terminal to connect with peripherals to provide the iPhone with micro-location services, might even be about to sound the death-knell for NFC.