We’ve covered how Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Many companies have had difficulty implementing beacons in a way that meaningfully impacts their bottom line. Even with the challenge, a few companies have done incredible things using beacons in innovative augmented reality applications. This technology is being improved all the time, and eventually amazing use cases like these could become everyday features.
1. Guided Museum Tours
The Brooklyn Museum of Art is providing tours through their app. Location-based triggers serve content as you walk through the Museum. It’s an engaging way to communicate with visitors and allows the guest to interact with the exhibits in whatever order they choose.
2. Making new connections
This one is controversial. Augmented reality struggles to stride the balance between amazing new features and gross privacy intrusions. SXSW illustrated this perfectly by a feature in their app that broadcasts your position to other app-users. People could meet up and connect based on similar interests, or by making friends over the many twitter conversations going on at the event. Yes, you could choose to turn the feature off completely. Twitter fans rejoiced.
3. Saving a seat on the train
Crowded public transportation is everyday life in South Korea, and finding a seat can be difficult for vulnerable populations like pregnant women and the elderly. To alleviate this problem, pregnant women can download an app provided by the transport system. Whenever she enters a train, a beacon triggers a light that instructs other passengers to give up priority seating until the woman is seated. The app has received universal praise, and alleviates a social concern of not catering to the needs of pregnant women out of ignorance to their condition, especially in the early stages of pregnancy which are not always easily visible.
4. Scavenger Hunting
The Chicago based development firm Codal showcased their beacon technology by creating a scavenger hunt at Techweek. Users interacted with beacons at key points throughout the conference to be entered in a giveaway. Key exhibitors partnered with organizers to guide hunters to important showcases across the event. Hyper-local engagement is an area beacons can truly outstrip other technology.
5. Saving a Firefighter’s Life
Firefighters will rush headfirst into danger, often isolated from help and unable to communicate. To protect those that protect others, the Department of Homeland Security has developed an inexpensive tracker that triggers an alert to emergency personnel when a firefighter is in danger. BLE beacons placed around the perimeter of an emergency zone and on the firefighters responding can pinpoint position and detect when an emergency worker stops moving and immediately send an alarm. The solution only costs about $300, making it affordable for small towns and remote locations.
6. Guide the visually impaired
A smart phone app will soon be guiding the visually impaired aboard Wichita, Kansas’ bus and transport system. The city is partnering with the California geofencing and location software company Gimbal to use beacons on their buses to push location-based instructions to blind app-users. The technology is still in its infancy, and as they receive usage information the service will be improved to best serve their vision impaired community.
7. Find Your Airport Terminal
Ever had that minor panic of looking at your phone and your boarding pass as you rush to the gate? Miami International Airport hopes to make the airport sprint a thing of the past. Bluetooth beacons have been added to each terminal and key points like food and restrooms. Users can download the airport app and be guided straight to their terminal from the baggage check-in. Many travelers will likely find this extremely helpful, provided they download the app first.
8. Optimize a Grocery Store Layout
Acuity Brands recently showcased their shopping cart tracking system for grocery stores. Bluetooth Beacons are placed in the light fixtures and on the carts to pinpoint and track the carts’ movement around the store. Understanding how customers move around the store is the end-goal for this technology, which allows product placement and restocking to be optimized in the most cost-efficient manner. Creating analytics around physical items is a huge benefit of BLE beacons, and this use-case proves that location analytics do not have to be invasive to consumer privacy.
9. Skip the Long Lines
Apple fans will find their visits to the mall just a little more convenient, as all domestic Apple Stores are now using beacons to communicate with customers. The project was kicked off to promote their iBeacon technology, and allows users check in for service and receive notifications specific to their Apple devices. Apple has an advantage because their users all have the Apple Store App, which had Bluetooth Beacon features added in a recent update. Other retailers may find it more difficult to convince users to download more software, however the benefits of the functionality are impressive.
10. Open the Hotel Room with your Phone
Ditch the room key, and open up your smart phone. That’s what SPG is pitching to posh hotels across the world. Their technology uses an app to communicate with a Bluetooth Beacon which triggers the door lock to your hotel room. Guests can walk up to their hotel room and unlock with a gesture. Better not forget to charge your phone!
11. Crackerjack Delivery at the Ballpark
Major League Baseball released their ballpark app, which is designed to work at many participating stadiums around the US. In-game highlights and social media integrations are typical event-app fare, but it also features food and merchandise purchasing options which are delivered directly to your seat.
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