Technology and Products

How to Greet Your Customers With Beacon Notifications

December 27, 2015
Torbjørn Vatn
Senior Platform Engineer

This post was originally posted in the Unacast tech blog

Beacons are increasingly being used in various industries and according to The Proxbook Report, the most popular vertical is retail and the most common application area is beacon notifications. In this blog post, I will present an experiment with 3 different possibilities to use beacon notifications to greet your customers or employees.

#1: Apple Wallet aka. Passbook

I found out that a really simple and straight forward way to interact with iBeacons is via the Wallet app (formerly know as Passbook) in iOS.

A card in Wallet can be associated with one or several iBeacons via it’s UUID (and optionally the major and minor values for better precision). My contrived use case for this was that we could make Wallet based business cards for ourselves that we could send to/share with potential business partners. When they later come to visit us at the Unacastle something like this would happen:

The white cube you see in the GIFs is an iBeacon with a on/off switch that I use to simulate that I'm entering the office and get in range of our welcome message beacon.

Beacon notifications with Apple Wallet

#2: The Google Chrome notification center scheme

An alternative to Apple’s iBeacon standard is the new kid on the block; Google’s Eddystone. Contrary to iBeacons which only broadcast a data packet identifying the beacon with a UUID, the Eddystone specification supports URL and telemetry packets as well. The iOS version of Google Chrome has some limited support for interacting with so-called Physical Web objects broadcasting Eddystone-URLs, and an example of a Unacastle greeting using this approach could look something like this:

Beacon notifications with Google Chrome

These notifications don't trigger a notification of any kind, so it wouldn’t be much of a greeting.

#3: Using a native app

Last but not least, we have the full-fledged native app way of doing things. If you develop a native iOS app, you’re in full control of the beacon interaction (both iBeacons and Eddystone), and you could trigger beacon notifications to get the user's attention when the encounter a beacon of interest. For my greeting experiment, I chose to implement a mock Unacast employee app that would give us small motivational quotes when we get into the office in the morning. I used Facebook’s React Native with iBeacon support to make this rather crude example (skipping notifications for simplicity)

Beacon notifications with a mobile app

Wrapping up

Out of the three techniques I’ve described in this post, I would only consider the native app one to be usable for my Unacastle greeting use case. That’s the only way I could give the user a real notification, not just a silent card on the lock screen (or worse, in the notification center). But if Chrome or Opera takes their Eddystone-URL support a bit further and adds notification possibilities of some kind, it would be an easy and wide-reaching alternative to native apps. These are examples of the kind of interactions that Unacast helps integrate into the digital world.