Beacons are the great devices which can do a lot for businesses. Some people are used to thinking that the only possible way to apply them is to connect with smartphones. However, the combination of beacon devices and smartwatches or other wearables can also bring lots of benefits and some companies use it on a daily basis. In this article we will find out what are the benefits of this combination, are there any drawbacks and what does it take to implement beacons and wearables technological tandem into life.
Beacons and wearable technology examples
It may not be a hype nowadays, nevertheless, some companies use such combo successfully for more than 3 years. Let’s take a look at the most famous ones:
Where beacons and wearables were applied
The airline company Virgin Atlantic launched a testing project based on wearable technology and beacons in 2014. The idea was to bring a significantly new level of customer experience to passengers of the Upper Class Wing at London Heathrow Airport. Beacons sensors tracked a customer location and provided a user with all necessary information to make the boarding process even more comfortable. A traveller got the updates about flight changes and could easily find a way he or she needed. At the same time, the airport staff were supplied with Google Glasses and smartwatches from Sony. These types of wearable technology provided workers with the information from customers about their needs and food and drinks preferences.
After the success of Virgin Atlantic, Japan Airlines decided to adopt the system as well. They wanted to use the system to improve their service at Tokyo Haneda Airport. The company placed Beacon devices near the boarding gates to track the location of the Airport staff.
It was just a beginning, now more than 10 world’s largest airports use beacons and wearable devices to improve customer’s experience all over the world. You can find BLE devices in Miami International Airport, Côte d’Azur Airport, Hong Kong International Airport, Hamad International Airport in Qatar and many others.
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But don’t think that only airports tried to implement wearables plus beacon technology solutions. That is not true. Major League Baseball stadium administration placed beacons all over their stadium to help visitors find their places faster and displayed a personal barcode when users reached the gates (a ticket barcode). The great advantage was that the app showed a visitor the shortest way out based on the information about queues in the real-time mode. As well as that, sports teams could track their fans visits and see who comes to their games more often. These fans got discounts and other prizes.
American Eagle Outfitters, a clothing brand, launched their campaign based on beacons to encourage their shop visitors to try on more clothes. When visitors came to the shop they got notifications about discounts they could get if they try on some clothes.
Beacons and wearables technology in business
There are lots of industries which can be optimized with the help of beacons and wearables. Below we named some wearables plus beacons business ideas:
Business ideas for weabables linked to beacon devices
The warehouse optimization issue has always been topical. There are a lot of technologies which can solve it. However, business owners usually look for the cheapest one. The warehouses which are placed in a multi-storey building cannot use GPS efficiently and WiFi does not always help here. So, BLE devices can navigate staff precisely and fast. Using glasses, which leave a worker’s hands free, you can get a tool to solve many issues. For instance, some smart glasses can scan barcodes and they can work as a wearable tracking technology.
Engineering and construction
The work in an incomplete multi-storey building is connected not only with navigation problems but also with a huge danger. That is why the ability to manage your staff here is priceless. This system helps you to control people and equipment they use, so you know exactly where every member of a team is right now. Smartwatches, unlike phones, let you have your arms empty and do a few things at the same time. It also helps stay concentrated and be more careful.
IoT devices can interact with the smartphones with the same efficiency as with smartphones. All the notifications can also be sent to a watch.
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Beacon technology in retail sphere has a very long history. And it gave great results. However, customers become more and more demanding nowadays and smartwatches give you a chance to satisfy all their needs. First of all, notifications sent to smartwatches is a less intrusive way to reach your customers. Second of all, smartwatches always use Bluetooth.
An office where more than 100 people are working at the same time looks like a beehive. And if you need to find a person fast it can become a real problem. With the beacons and smartwatches, you can see where a person is without pinging and disturbing him or her.
Pros and cons of wearable technology and beacons
When a person applies wearables plus beacon for business, he or she can improve the conversion in one way or another. The combo guarantee you the pros we listed below.
Advantages of wearable technology combined with beacons
More data collection
Despite the common belief that a phone is almost a third hand nowadays, watches are even closer. We carry watches with us to places where we usually don’t take our phones. It gives businesses an ability to collect more data.
Studying your customers’ behaviour you can offer them better, more personalized approach. For instance, if you own a shop, you can improve products layout to make it more convenient for customers and place staff in the most needed places.
If we are talking about a construction site, the information about your workers’ location is very important. Especially if there are many new people there or trainees. Besides, beacons devices can inform workers of the areas restricted from visiting.
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Tracking your staff, it's location, how much time they spend out of their workplaces helps you understand what things you need to pay attention to. Moreover, you can find a needed person within a few seconds and in big offices or places like an airport terminal or a railway station, it can save you so much of precious time.
Still, the system isn’t perfect yet. The companies which tried it, reported about the issues they faced during the trial period. Here are the main two we believe are the most crucial.
Drawbacks of wearable and beacon combination
There are several biggest beacon manufacturers in the world. The average distance of the interaction between a beason and a smartwatch is approximately 50 meters. At the same time, the distance beacons need to interact with a smartwatch, in reality, is only a meter or two. So, if an app has to work independently from a mobile phone, a person has to come very close to a beacon device. Otherwise, a beacon will not be able to connect to a wearable.
A receiving station, in our case it’s a wearable device, would consume lots of energy all the time. Under such conditions, a smartwatch or a pair of smart glasses would die in a few hours. If you want to use this technology in an office, your workers can be okay with that. But if you think to apply it to your customers, they can simply turn an app off.
Like in a case with any innovation, there are still some cons you can face. Nevertheless, the progress makes us believe that all these issues will be fixed and the technologies would work seamlessly. If you think so too, you can see what are the variants of wearable and beacon combination implementation and if it is really worth trying.
We’ve already named you the biggest advantages and threads of wearables and beacons combo. Now, it is time to take a look at the development peculiarities to understand if it is worth to apply the technology at all. Depending on the configuration you need and the functionality you want to see in such a project, there are a few variants of it's implementation.
How to create an app for wearable and beacon combination
With an existing app
If you already have an existing application which works with the beacons in your shop or restaurant or an office and you want users to get notifications on smartwatches as well, in such a case, the development of this feature would take about 10-20 hours. 20 hours of development is not a big sacrifice for all those pluses we’ve listed above.
From scratch for a phone and a wearable
If you have no apps at all and you’ve decided to launch it, you will need to pay for app development service plus 10-20 hours to add a smartwatch optimization.
Remember! Smartwatch development differs from the one for a mobile app. Find out all the peculiarities of a smartwatch app development process here!
From scratch only for wearables
If you don't want your application to communicate with a smartphone at all, then your app for wearables should include the overall functionality alone. The duration and the cost of such an app would depend on the functionality you need. For instance, if you want your customers to get notifications when they are passing by a beacon, such app would take about 40 hours to develop. If the app has to track people’s location, the number of times they went there or there, such app would require approximately 80 hours and so on. The more features you want, the longer time you need to create them.
Tip. The majority of modern beacon producers offer various tools for integration. Each case is individual and you need to clarify with the manufacturer if these tools can satisfy all your needs. For instance, Estimote, one of the most popular beacon manufacturers in the world, offers an SDK for iOS and Android platforms and an API as well. They claim that these instruments suit the smartwatch projects too. Kontact.io manufacturer offers the already built apps for iOS and Android systems, however, we don’t know if these apps are compatible with wearables. Blue Cat, GeLo and Glimworm also provide their beacon devices with the tools for integration. But there is no information about wearables compatibility. So, before buying any devices, you should contact a manufacturer and ask them all these questions. Otherwise, you will have to build the whole system from scratch and it would cost you a fortune.
Any app development takes time. The planning stage is one of the most important ones. During this stage, you need to consider all pros and cons and decide if you really want this system in the light of the expenses required for implementation. You can drop us a line if you still have any questions or hesitations about wearables and beacons combination.
Evgeniy Altynpara is a CTO and member of the Forbes Councils’ community of tech professionals. He is an expert in software development and technological entrepreneurship and has 10+years of experience in digital transformation consulting in Healthcare, FinTech, Supply Chain and Logistics
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