Alongside the introduction of Apple’s latest mobile operating system iOS 7, the company also rolled out its answer to the NFC technology it has gone out of its way to avoid in iPhones, iPads and iPod touch handhelds. The solution is called “iBeacon,” and it allows for the creation of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons that emit signals iOS 7-powered devices will automatically react to when they come within range of the beacon. These beacons can be apps installed on Apple’s iOS devices or they can be dedicated hardware that use BLE to interact with Apple handsets and tablets. There are some great use cases out there that really could make fantastic use of Apple’s new iBeacon feature, but there is also a darker side of iBeacons that could become a huge annoyance for iPhone owners and other iOS device users.
As noted in a recent piece by Econsultancy, iBeacon offers tremendous possibilities to retailers who might use the technology to power mobile payment solutions, coupon solutions and also targeted advertising. Where coupons and advertising are concerned, however, Apple device users could be in store for an onslaught of annoying ads as they walk around malls or browse through retail stores everywhere.
“Speaking strictly from an advertiser’s point of view, increasing the sophistication of user targeting is one of the keys to realising mobile’s vast potential as an advertising platform,” Boost Communications’ Adam French said. “The more tightly an advertising message can be targeted towards a particular context, user behaviour or user profile, the more likely it is to offer real value – and deliver better engagement and results. Location is undoubtedly important.”
French continued, “A rapidly growing number of customers already use their devices in-store to research and compare products, so the behaviour pattern is already in place. Advertisers would dearly love to be able to measure how close a consumer is to a particular area, and target a message to that consumer’s device accordingly. iBeacons appears to be an elegant solution to this.”
This is indeed a tremendously useful tools for advertisers — with the potential to create a tremendously painful experience for consumers. iBeacon solutions providers will look to capitalize on the hundreds of millions of people who are already using iOS 7 and the hundreds of millions more who will adopt the new software in the months and years to come. We can only hope that constraint is exercised by retailers so that iPhone owners aren’t bombarded with coupons and ads every time they walk into a shop.