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

Addicted to your Smartphone?

In my last article, I talked about the silliness of a CEO’s belief that smartphones are bad. There is another side to that coin – some people are really, truly addicted to their favorite mobile device. Or at least “have issues.”

If you are one of those, what can you do? Here are some suggestions, culled from the depths of Google (ok – just the first 8 or so articles that I found):

  1. Turn off notifications. I do this with email (because I get too much). I manually check email on my iphone, rather than having my iphone alert me to email every minute or so. Works great.
  2. Uninstall apps if they become a problem.
  3. Turn on Airplane Mode when you need to focus.
  4. Don’t answer the phone/text/email/tweet/etc. Some people even schedule times during the day to process emails/voicemails/social media replies, etc.
  5. Charge your phone somewhere other than your bedroom. Or, some smartphones let you set a “no notifications” time.
  6. Use a “smartphone addiction” app like Moment or Breakfree
  7. Do something that doesn’t involve your phone.
  8. Or, just turn it off. You’ll save battery life, too!

Control your device – don’t let your device control you!

Image by Buzzfarmers

Put the iPhone Down

smartphones and feature phonesI just saw this article (via Beth Kanter’s Twitter feed) about the evils of smartphones. In this particular article, Sheldon Yellen talks about being a more effective CEO by continuing to use his old flip phone.

He says this: “… keeping my flip phone and saying “no” to constant interruptions was one of my most profitable business decisions.” He then goes on to talk about all the distractions that a smartphone introduces (like he’d know, since he still uses a flip phone).

He then talks about how distracting smartphones can be: “One of the main factors in my decision was the distraction that smartphones introduce. I’ve seen people stare under the table in meetings, glued to an app rather than contributing.” Yeah. So, when you were noticing your employees checking their email rather than being attentive in your meetings? That means the meeting was boring. Stop holding boring meetings! Problem solved.

Then Sheldon provides four “benefits” to going without a smartphone. Here’s the list of benefits with my comments:

1. Increased efficiency. He thinks that freeing oneself from smartphone apps makes you more productive. Then he talks about how Facebook costs U.S. employers $28 billion in lost productivity annually. First of all, the article Sheldon points to doesn’t mention anything about the Facebook mobile app, so it’s a bad comparison for his article. Secondly, there are quite a few articles that talk about how Facebook makes employees MORE productive at work. And of course, there’s the added irony that his own company has a Facebook Page.

2. Direct Communication. Here, he’s confusing his preferred method of communication (phone calls and taking notes by hand) with something that works for everyone. Simply not true. For example, I type faster than I write, and when I want to remember something, I email it to myself and stick it in a folder for later recall.

3. More mental exercise. Sheldon thinks that doing things like calculating tips makes your brain work better, rather than relying on smartphones. Hmm … have any proof of that? Because there are plenty of articles that claim our digital devices just might be making us smarter.

4. Business diplomacy. Sheldon doesn’t really talk about “business diplomacy” here. He talks about Facebook friends not being real friends, and how it’s better to talk to people offline. Sure. Agreed. But … that doesn’t really have anything whatsoever to do with owning a smartphone. So … ??

I’m pretty sure most of you lovely readers know this – owning a smartphone is not the issue here. Here’s what I’d suggest to Sheldon: get a smartphone and really learn how to use it. Use it for 3-6 months. Have someone help you find some really useful productivity apps.

Then write another article about the experience. Hard to write about the evils of a smartphone if you’ve never owned one!

Phone photo by Thord Daniel Hedengren

Mobile Technology Presentation

I just gave a presentation on mobile technology for the Future Tech Strategies in Libraries symposium for the University of Toronto iSchool. Here are my slides! This presentation have two parts:

  1. current and emerging trends in mobile technology devices
  2. eight ways libraries can respond to these trends

Enjoy!