Google’s Eddystone and a look at beacon technology

eddystoneLast month, Google released Eddystone, its own version of Apple’s iBeacon technology. In true Apple form, iBeacon is a closed system that works only on iPhones. Eddystone is an open sourced platform-agnostic beacon technology that provides several other advantages. Google said it set out to build a “new class of beacons that addresses real-life use-cases, cross-platform support, and security.”

Google named their beacon technology after the UK Eddystone Lighthouse. The idea is that beacons guide users and apps in the real world the same way lighthouses guide ship captains in the night. There are many places you can go to learn about the technical aspects of beacons, and specifically Eddystone, so let’s talk about the applications of beacon technology.

Similar to the GPS technology behind geofencing, beacons are becoming an important part of out-of-home marketing and advertising. Because GPS tends not to work very well indoors and because it lacks the more precise location-determining capabilities of beacons, each technology plays a unique role for marketers looking to communicate with their audience.

Beacons are small battery operated devices the size of a cookie that can be placed virtually anywhere in a store or outdoor location. The emit a unique Bluetooth (BLE) signal one to ten times a second to any device (smartphone) turned on and capable of hearing it within about 200 feet. Beacons are different from GPS signals in that beacons can be set to ping a phone several feet away to just a few inches. It can also provide this pinging on a moving object such as a bus or taxi.

Unlike GPS technology, beacons don’t send information to your phone. Rather, it is up to your phone and its app to make sense of the signal. Geofencing, the common use of GPS satellite technology, is relatively expensive to use, causes a greater drain on phone batteries, and requires satellites and cell phone towers in order to pinpoint location. Beacons require small inexpensive devices using batteries lasting years to transmit signals that can be interpreted in a wide variety of applications.

Beacons open up a whole new way for people to interact with their immediate environment. Retailers can strategically place beacons throughout a store to send coupons to customers within specific departments or isles. Offers for electronics can be segregated from offers on food items for big box stores. Information on new products can be sent to customers walking within a few feet from those products, the assumption being that they may be looking at those very products at that moment. Offers to loyalty customers can be different from offers to non-loyalty customers. Once integrated with unique customer buying history, the possibilities are endless.

I look forward to seeing how marketers utilize beacons as their size and cost decrease – beacon wafers the size of a postage stamp is certainly possible. Now, that’s something I could hide in my wallet for the next time it’s lost.




About Mike Lake

Mike is the Senior Vice President of Marketing for Evergreen Trading. When not playing jazz trombone he is probably obsessing about writing content that will capture the attention and interest of business people and fellow learning junkies everywhere.

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