Problems faced in Beacon Technology Implementation

There is no denying to the fact that beacons market is booming up. Beacons are lightweight location aware system that is cost effective and a subtle means for hyper-localized advertising.
The proximity that beacons can reach has set a new avenue for marketers. It has been found that 40% of people keep their shopping list on their phones and beacons can ease their routines by providing the location of the store, or by pushing notification about the product that they want to buy. Similarly, 25% of people go for direct mobile payment options on counters where BLE can come into action. Hence, on paper Beacon technology seem like a tremendous opportunity for retailers, but when it comes to practical implementation, there exist a few hurdles that need to be resolved.
Installed apps: You have to install an app for the beacon to work on your phone. Ideally, beacon notifications should be ingeniously built in the operating system and we should not need to install any additional app. Unfortunately, we are not there yet. Currently the user should have the app on his phone that can catch a beacon signal.
Hence, there should be enough motivation for users to download the app and allow beacons to communicate with it. Only with the sole purpose of getting a push notification while in the range of the beacon will not urge the users to keep or even download any app. When we ideated Jayu, we added the loyalty angle to it so that even if the user does not want to be poked with offer, he can just collect loyalty points.
Upgraded Handsets: Your phone needs to have bluetooth low energy hardware built in. Until recently, only iPhones with iOS7+ had BLE compatibility. Now the latest Android phones will also be compatible to BLE. In most developing countries, people still carry lower versions of OS, hence the power of beacons can only be leashed once these people also have upgraded phones.
Trust: The idea being automatically logged in when you walk into a beacon zone and having your personal preferences linked to your visit, might spook many people as it might delight many others.
No centralized system: There is no centralized system yet to operate all the beacons at the same time, as Beacons don’t have serial numbers written on the casing. You need to use an app to scan the beacon and figure out its assigned major and minor number. The major tells which beacon group it is in and the minor shows the location it was previously installed, but this means during the installation you have to keep a map of every beacon which is installed and its corresponding major/minor number so it can be tracked later. In scenarios where numerous beacons are used, there are instances when you loose some in course of time. Then, while replacement, you can’t just reassign a missing beacon’s minor value and place it in the same spot because minor numbers in any major group have to be unique. This means you have to change the minor value to a unique value and then go back and update the number on the map. What should be an easy and quick process is a mess to track and change numbers. It is much easier in places where there are specific small numbers of beacons installed, but places where large numbers of beacons are installed it is difficult to do the manual settings and get it right.
Technical Limitations: As beacons use Bluetooth Smart low energy radiation to send out the signals to the device, it is essential that the mobile Bluetooth is switched for interaction with the beacon in the beacon range.This part becomes difficult somehow because apparently it is not known where the beacon is placed and when the Bluetooth needs to be on. It can be a turn off for many people as keeping Bluetooth on for the long period of time can drain the battery of the device.
Device Sticking Problem: Mostly Beacons will have a fair amount of sticking substance on its back to stick to walls and table tops but the real world shop may have different surfaces to stick. Some surfaces do not allow the glue to stay in enough time, so the beacon can be misplaced or lost.
Lack of precision: The ideal scenario for the beacon should be, that it activates exactly at the set range and deactivate when the user is out of the range, but due to the RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indication) variations it almost never follows the precise range, hence the signals can be received even away from the set range or vice versa.
Conclusion: Beacon is evolving and are poised to contribute heavily to the marketing landscape. The above mentioned issues should not deter you from adding beacons into your marketing mix. When TV was introduced for the first time, people discarded the idea thinking, why would anyone want to sit down for long hours in front of a screen, when he can pick up a radio and take a walk.

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Comments
  • Lucia Schoepfer

    Hi Subi,

    Thanks for the nice overview. I love your last sentences: It’s so true. People are always afraid of technical changes, but history tought us: mostly it’s for the best.

    I’m working for a IT company in Austria. It’s a small company and a small town where we’re located. But I’m always impressed, how open people here are about new techniques, especially in tourism.

    So let’s hope, less people are so critical. Beacons are a really cool technology!

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