A Publication of WTVP

The Internet of Things will deliver context-sensitive, customized information to make life easier in many ways.

When one first sees an iBeacon, there isn’t much to get impressed over. They look like some cool, “facet-cut” plastic ornaments to sit on a shelf… nothing that would prompt any conversation. But in fact, it is their very ability to be nondescript that makes the difference. For it’s not that the iBeacon is the end-all be-all of technology gadgetry; rather, it’s the user interactions delivered by the device that have businesses climbing over one another to get them installed and activated.

Leveraging the technology behind the so-called “Internet of Things,” iBeacons and devices like it are being hailed as “The Next Industrial Revolution.” In a February 2014 Forbes article, Jim Stogdill, general manager of O’Reilly Media’s Radar and its upcoming Internet-of-Things-related conference, states, “Today, stable wireless platforms, standardized software interface components, and cheap, widely available sensors have made the connection of virtually every device—from coffee pots to cars—not only possible; they have made it certain.”

What will our world look like once immersed in connectedness, you ask? Let’s start visioning.

You are running home to pick up your daughter for an evening at the museum and some shopping. Your home reacts to your arrival by detecting you approaching the doorstep. Your deadbolt unlocks, allowing you access. In the living room, you hear the TV turn on to your favorite station. Lights come on in the laundry room to alert you of dirty laundry in the chute. This starts an argument between you and your daughter, who was supposed to do the laundry when she came home from school an hour ago. And you know she came home on time, because the house emailed you to let you know she had arrived home safely.

You head to the museum and as you work your way through the art, iBeacons draw a custom map to help you navigate the exhibit. When you come to the works you wanted to see, additional information is displayed on your phone, allowing you to read it now or save it for later. Augmented reality enters the picture to make pieces “come alive” with video overlays.

Now, it’s time to shop. At this point in the adoption curve, it is retailers who are rapidly seeing the benefits of opting in to the Internet of Things, as iBeacons deliver context-sensitive marketing and messaging to shoppers. Stand in front of a television for too long making your decision, and suddenly your phone buzzes with a 10-percent off coupon to prompt you into action. iBeacons are already in place within Apple stores, suggesting new products and offering discounts on purchases.

In a world in which everyone’s most intimate relationship is with their device, the ability to use that device to navigate deeper into new spaces offers a myriad of benefits. As a visitor, this technology can assist with deeper navigation in large spaces—think college campuses, medical institutions, hotels and resorts. As an administrator, the benefits are wider. In the case of conferences, iBeacons can disperse information pertinent to the visitor’s location, supplying additional resources about the speaker at hand and delivering just-in-time messaging to keep crowds on task with their agendas. They can also deliver real-time reporting on users within the spaces, triangulating locations through multiple devices.

This Bluetooth-based, “microlocation” functionality opens up a whole new world of possibility to make life easier in so many ways. From solving problems around digital identities and credentialing to introducing in-location navigation and dynamic experiences based on interactions, it offers immediate applications across all industries. And as the ability to detect and prove identity is paired with microlocation to deliver a workable solution for digital wallets, this technology may finally bring mobile payments to the mainstream. iBi

Amy Lambert is director of learning at OneFire.