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

Foursquare and Libraries – Definitely Something There!

This is a follow-up post to my original post, Foursquare and Libraries – Anything There?

Lots of you left some great ideas in the comments, so I thought I’d do a little copy/paste and highlight some of them … because they’re really very cool ideas!

So – here are what some of YOU are doing with Foursquare:

  • Colleen Greene: Pollak Library (at Cal State Fullerton) is using it in beta mode, adding in a bunch of To Do items and Tips for students (i.e., get a Titan Card, set up their borrowing privileges, check their circulation record, use one of our AV or Group study rooms, visit the latest exhibit, etc.). our Social Media Team is exploring the idea of prizes. I am also teaching our campus social media working group how to use it and incorporate it into a campus culture.
  • Jason Clark: Saw this in a tweet from NYPL which talks about the kernel of an idea – summer reading meets foursquare . A friendly reading competition in the mobile space? Job description provides some more detail. While this isn’t true foursquare integration, it points to how foursquare could lead to/inspire new library apps and services.
  • Brad Czerniak: Canton Public Library offers a weekly prize to their Mayor. Just a concept. This week it’s a #totebag http://twitpic.com/ynn7x
  • libmario: Harvard and UNC recently teamed up with Foursquare to encourage social engagement with the campus community ,including faculty. Innovative way to encourage learning and connections that could be extended to libraries. – http://mashable.com/2010/01/12/harvard-foursquare/

And one interesting sidenote. Sometimes, people can be a bit negative about our libraries while adding tips to Foursquare. For example, Stephen Francoeur said “Saddened to see that one tag already added to my library: shitty wifi. Hope to find a way to turn that perception around.”

We’ve had one of those, too. Jason D. added this To Do list item to my library’s entry: “Late fees are being enforced, so to help you remember to take your books in, sign up for email reminders via tscpl.org.” Not sure that’s really a negative comment, but it makes us sound a bit like “enforcers of the evil late fee” or something…

Anyway, yet another use for Foursquare – see what customers say about you in the Tips and To Do lists sections (then see if you can improve or fix those things).

Feel free to friend me in Foursquare!

Foursquare and Libraries – Anything There?

Library entry in foursquareFoursquare is a location-based game. From Foursquare’s website: “We’re all about helping you find new ways to explore the city. We’ll help you meet up with your friends and let you earn points and unlock badges for discovering new places, doing new things and meeting new people.”

Basically, Foursquare works like last.fm or librarything, but instead of sharing music you’ve listened to or books you’ve read, you’re sharing places you’re visiting, and aggregating that list out to your friends.

To play, install an app on your phone, via an iPhone or Android app (a Blackberry one is in the works). You can also use the mobile version of their website for other phones that have web access. Then go visit places … like a coffee shop, a restaurant … basically wherever it is that you go. Once there, “check in” with the app. Checking in gives you points and badges. If you visit a place more than anyone else, you become the “mayor” of that place (until your title is swiped by someone else).

Friend people, and see your points tallied with everyone on your friends list. In the process, you can also create to-do lists and tips at each place you visit, and suggest things for your friends to try or do. Every time you do something, it can be shared with your Twitter and Facebook friends.

wifi tag in foursquareSo … how does this relate to libraries again?

Well… here are some ideas for your library or organization on Foursquare:

  1. Add your library as a place, or edit the entry if someone else has already added it. You can enter your street address (Google map is included, phone number, and your library’s Twitter name.
  2. Add tags relevant to the library. For example, I have added the tags library, books, music, movies, and wifi to my library’s Foursquare entry. If you are in the area (Foursquare is a location-based service, so it knows where you are) and search for wifi – guess who’s at the top of the list? Yep – the library.
  3. Add Tips and To Do lists. When you check in to a place, you have the option to add tips of things you can do there, and you can create To-Do lists of things you want to do there. For libraries, both are helpful – it’s a way to broadcast your services to Foursquare players. To Do lists are handy, because you can make the list and other players can add those To Do list items to their lists, too. When they do something on those lists, they gain points. Think of it as a fun way to get people doing stuff at your library! Just think – someone could gain points by getting a library card – how cool is that?
  4. Add your big events. Then, you can have an event check-in with prizes for the first person who checks in, etc.
  5. Shout outs. These are a type of status update, and can be sent to Twitter and Facebook. So do stuff, then shout out that you’ve done them.

Ok – so Foursquare is definitely fadish right now, and is mainly played by Twitter and Facebook users. But it’s also a great way to connect with a very active, involved online mobile community – and pretty much every city and town has that these days.

Here are a couple of other articles on Foursquare:

We’ll see how it goes – if you’re curious, feel free to follow me on Foursquare!

Update – check out my follow-up post, Foursquare and Libraries – Definitely Something There!