“Beacons are the most powerful weapon in the marketing arsenal for understanding consumers in the physical world. They should be in every marketer’s toolkit,” says Tony Fross, VP of the Digital Advisory Service at Capgemini Consulting. I agree, proximity technologies like beacons are revolutionizing the way marketers are used to communicating with customers, but regarding use case potential, let’s face it, marketing can be so boring! Instead, there is a wide variety of interesting use cases where geolocation technologies boost other than just conversion rates. Here are some of the most exciting beacon use cases (at least to us beacon enthusiasts).
Keep track of your belongings
Just recently Samsonite announced their Track&Go solution, to find lost luggage thanks to Accent System’s beacons. Beacons are installed inside suitcases and with the Samsonite’s Travlr mobile app, you can keep track of your luggage at all times. Thanks to the new beacon format Eddystone-EID, which sends encrypted and rotating ID’s, the solution is protected from malicious third parties. So how does it work? The owner of the luggage can check the location of the suitcase at any times. If the luggage get’s missing, the owner can mark it’s luggage as lost in the app. Then the Travlr app leverages its user base; when anyone with the app installed is within 70m from the suitcase, the app picks up the beacon signal privately and securely and reports it to the owner.
Americans lose an average of 5,591$ worth of belongings over a lifetime (population 318,9million), and this initiative from Samsonite is a perfect example how geolocation technology and the network effect can make a real difference in our everyday lives. And it’s not only about luggage, think about all the things that tend to get lost or stolen: keys, wallets, purses, phones and even pets.
One of the most widely known and used smart processes are mobile payments, but there is a lot more untapped potential. Citigroup, one of the leading global banks, is testing beacon technology from Gimbal in a pilot that gives customers cardless access to branch ATMs after business hours. The bank is also using beacons to sense waiting time for customers; if someone has been waiting for too long, the teller is notified. Gimbal is showing us that we should think of mobile phones as keys; whether it’s security locks at workplaces, hotel doors or why not even home locks?
Another exciting example is customer prequalification. Experian, the leading credit information company, is piloting a solution where retailers can offer instant credit to customers when they walk into the store and creditors can prequalify customers on demand for a car and house purchases.
Hospitals boost efficiency and safety
There is no other environment where time is as critical like in hospitals; a saved minute or even a second could equal to a saved life. Nicklaus Children's Hospital, which receives 150,000 emergency room visits annually, has deployed beacons to manage assets, personnel and patients within the emergency department. Also, Near Field Communication (NFC) tags to facilitate inspections when conducting daily inventory counts and ensure that the crash carts are properly loaded.
The technology has helped the medical facility to reduce the amount of time the employees spend inspecting crash carts, from several hours to merely a few minutes each day. It also enables the locating of wheelchairs, pumps and other equipment throughout the emergency department, when such items are needed for patient care, based on BLE transmissions. In the long term, though, the hospital aims to know where individuals and items are located and to use intelligence based on that location data to boost the efficiency and safety of patient care.
Making it fun and enthralling
The common use case for exhibitions and museums is to tag exhibits with beacons and display additional information about a piece when a visitor approaches it. The Canadian Museum of Nature took it a step further with help from bv02 and Estimote. To teach visitors about the process of evolution, they created a game called 'Evolution @ Nature' for their Mammal Gallery. The goal of the users is to take part of the evolution process of different creatures while walking around the exhibition. Every time the visitor interacts with a beacon, the creature in the mobile game attains another trait. After evolving five times, the user could share the results with their friends on social media.
Another good example is the Brooklyn Museum in New York. They decided to use Estimote’s beacon technology to add a more human touch to its exhibitions, instead of pushing content to the visitors. Through the ASK app, visitors can communicate to curators their wish to receive an explanation or discuss a concrete piece of art.
These use cases are perfect examples how geolocation technologies can gamify and enhance the customer experience. We love to get rewarded and see our progress; that’s why we use Fitbit's and apps like Endomodo. So why not even expand it to venues like gyms? For example, when you visit a gym and achieve your goals you get some rewards and wouldn’t you just love to ask instant advice from a personal trainer?
A student named Sam Serpoosh tackled a problem that needs solving in a wide area of industries. He created an app and a web service that helps students in a University to find less crowded areas for work and study. It also helps library staff easily to create reports about usage traffic in study areas. So instead of doing a lot of manual labor, students were able to check from the app if there are vacancies in the library and where.
While Sam only solved the problem for one university, I would like to remind you that one of the most known Mark’s in the world started out the same way. When expanded, this is not only a solution for universities or educational facilities. Think of going into a restaurant, you can see vacancies before hand, sounds like a natural add-on for Foursquare. Why not even parking spaces and hotels?
As you can see, marketing is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to beacons; the possibilities are only limited by our imagination really.As the hardware and software keep getting more sophisticated and secure, we will see an even larger amount of potential use cases. Feel free to leave a comment on what kind of use cases you think are exceptional or unique?