More Info about iBeacon Technology

beaconsMy last couple of articles have looked into iBeacon technology. Interested in finding out more? This article has a bunch of links for more reading on iBeacons, and what’s happening with them. Enjoy!

My articles on iBeacons:

Library-related iBeacon articles:

Even More iBeacon Articles:

I’ll possibly re-visit this topic as I play with these things, so stay tuned!

iBeacons and the Library

an iBeaconI’ve shown what iBeacons are, and what they do in non-retail settings. Can they be used in a library setting? Definitely – because some libraries are already experimenting with them!

There are currently two companies in the library industry working with iBeacons (that I know of, anyway):

What are these companies focusing on?

Bluubeam sends out location-based messaging. For example, if you walk into the teens area of the library (and have the Bluubeam app on your mobile device), you might get a message about what’s happening in the teen section that day, or get a message about an upcoming teen event.

So think location-based promotion of events and your stuff.

Capira Technologies does location-based messaging. They’re also working on more personalized info. For example, here’s what they say about circulation notices:

Patrons who have authenticated their account information in your library app can receive notifications about items due that day, items ready for pickup, and much more when they enter the building. Library staff know that patrons often visit the library and forget they have items due that day. Automatically reminding them to stop by the circulation desk and renew them before they leave is a great customer service.

What types of things could you do with iBeacons in a library? Here are some ideas:

  • Event notices that are location-based
  • Promotion of new library services. For example, if a customer walks by your new makerspace, they could receive a message explaining it, and maybe an “ask the librarian” prompt for more information.
  • Building tours!
  • Around-town tours. I’d love to see iBeacons connected to a historical walking tour, for example. This has the potential to be much better than portable headsets, and definitely better than QR codes.
  • Art gallery explanations. We have an art gallery. It might work to have explanations of art pieces or more information about the current exhibit.
  • Shelving notices. What’s on this shelf? Capira goes much further with this idea – “For example, if a library offered a row of shelves with New Releases, a patron could view items released that day using their device and a beacon located on the shelf.”
  • Patron Assistance (again from Capira). Devices can time how long a beacon stays in range. Staff can be notified if a patron spends an excessive amount of time in a specific area or room without moving, possibly indicating they may require assistance looking for items.
  • Beacon Tracking – Anonymous tracking via iBeacons can capture how library customers move around in your building, along with how much time is spent in each area. Retail stores already do this, and then move their products around to where customers gather. Something to think about!

Again – there is potentially a LOT of possibility here. What do you think? Please share!

iBeacon image by Jonathan Nalder

Non-Retail Uses for iBeacons

Airfy - home use of iBeacon TechnologyIn my last post, I explained what iBeacons are and a bit about what they do, especially in retail stores. There are some pretty cool non-retail uses of iBeacon technology, too.

Here are some examples:

  • CES: At CES, if you had the CES app installed, you could play a scavenger hunt and win a prize
  • Education: Teachers are using them to automatically take attendance. The iBeacons recognize when a student has entered the classroom
  • Museums: Hanging around a painting? iBeacons could send you more information about the painting and the artist
  • Hotels: automated check-in and check-out
  • SXSW: install the SXSW Go app, and you’ll be connected to over 1000 ibeacons. The beacons will tell you what’s happening nearby (if you’ve ever been to SXSW, you’ll know that is important!), and who else has arrived.
  • Disney World: Disney has created an iBeacon-compatible wristband that acts as a room key for their hotel room, pays for stuff in the park, acts as a park pass, gets you into the fast lane, and helps collect photos.

In my next post, I’ll talk about using iBeacons in a library setting.

Pic by iotlist

iBeacon Technology

an ibeacon and a smartphoneHave you heard about iBeacons? It’s possible this new technology will change many things about how we interact with our world. I’m still learning and experimenting with iBeacons – here’s what I know so far.

For starters – what exactly is iBeacon technology? It’s basically a low-level location and broadcasting technology that is built into smartphones. Here’s how it works: A beacon is a small BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) device that’s battery powered. It broadcasts a small amount of data, and smartphone apps can receive the signal and perform actions or share locations.

Apple has jumped into this big-time. Newer iOS 7 and later devices have iBeacon transmitters and receivers built into them. Newer Android and Windows devices also have BLE compatibility built in. Because of Apple’s involvement, you’ll see this technology referred to as both iBeacons (the Apple version) and as Beacons (no “i”).

Basically, iBeacons do two things:

  1. They are awesome at location. They can find you (or, more accurately, your smartphone) within a few feet.
  2. In conjunction with an app, they can send you information – either general or personalized info, depending on the app.

These two things help create the “magic” of iBeacons; ambient context identification. This simply means that the iBeacon can send you personalized, pertinent information, based on where you’re standing (depending on the app and what location services you have turned on).

Retail stores have been early adopters and experimenters of iBeacon technology. Macy’s and Apple have installed them in all their stores. If you have the appropriate app installed (Shopkick for Macy’s, the Apple Store app for Apple), you will be sent “helpful” messages about sales and other deals, depending on where you are in the store. Apple will alert you when your order is assembled.

My next couple of posts will cover more about iBeacons. Stay tuned!

Image by Jonathan Nalder

Which Comes First – Strategic Plan or Technology Plan?

Last week at the Future Tech Strategies for Libraries symposium, Rebecca Jones (of Dysart & Jones Associates) spoke about digital strategy. She always has good things to say, so I always listen closely.

She said this (my summary of it): Technology drives what the organization does. So, should the organization’s strategic plan come first, or should the technology plan come first? It’s starting to shift to the technology plan.

On the one hand, if you have a good strategic plan that is including technology … meaning that your tech manager is with it and has helped develop those strategies … then following a good organizational strategy makes sense. That’s how I’ve always operated. There’s no need for a real technology plan, because it’s embedded in the plans of the library.

On the other hand, today’s technology is driving the organization in many ways. Even something as “traditional” as new computer purchases, updating an OS, or replacing a telephone system (doing that this year!) can have a big impact on the organization’s budget, on planning, on training, and on organizational capacity for the year.

Then, when your “new phone system” is moving from an out-of-date system to a VOIP system with unified messaging, hand-off capabilities to a mobile device, internal chat messaging, etc … that can have a HUGE positive impact in how the organization does its work, and can … yes … have a big impact on the library’s strategic plans.

So – what do you think? Chicken or the egg? Strategic plan first, or technology plan first? Please share!

Pic by Kyle Van Horn