Have you heard about beacons? How do beacons work? Beacons are one of many technologies that Salford Business School’s PUPRU is working with. If you don’t know by now what #PUPRU is, you can read about it here. The #PUPRU team are a group from the Centre for Digital Business with a focus on researching the use of emerging and disruptive technologies in business. Disruptive technology is defined as:
… new digital goods and services that revolutionise, change and disrupt accepted methods of performing business activities and transactions …
We have all been exposed to disruptive technologies, but perhaps not been aware. All disruptive technologies have potential to be the next big thing, creating significant opportunity, as with past disrupters like the Internet, smart phones and Google. You may not see the relevance, but unforeseen digital disruption drastically impacts business revenues. For example, GAME group closed 277 stores in the UK and Ireland in 2012 when consumer habits changed and more people began downloading their games. EE’s 2015 third quarter results showed a 10.3% collapse in voice minute revenue as customers moved to VOIP communication apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat. Desktop PCs and laptop sales declined by 9.5% in 2015 with increased global demand for tablets and smart phones. It is no longer necessary for you to own desktop PC devices when there are cheaper mobile alternatives, offering mobility and additional functionality. A new service could disrupt an existing business and is a strong motivator to rethink IT strategy and align it with business strategy. This is where #PUPRU comes in and looks to engage with organisations investigating the use of emerging disruptive technologies in their strategies.
Now – to beacons – what are they?
Beacons are small sensors which can be stuck anywhere to provide context and micro-location to smart devices. In retail, they have been successfully used to drive customer loyalty and in-store sales. Beacons are proximity-based, sending Bluetooth signals to a customer’s mobile device when they within 50-100 feet of the device, automatically triggering personalised coupons, offers, and loyalty rewards. They can even be linked to contactless payments, speeding up the checkout process. Retail giants have begun to experiment with beacons and the trend is catching on. Smaller retailers are following fast in getting on board because they are quite cheap, relative easy to use. They acknowledge that shoppers have started to use their mobile phones in stores, which in academic terminology is referred to as “showrooming”.
Beacon technologies are used in retail for lots of reasons:
We think there is potential to use beacons in other business contexts as well as the educational and public sectors. We can already see potential use cases can falling into two categories:
Well, we have been exploring some potential use cases in health care services that digitally contextualise:
We have started to test some of these ideas. Our fiest test was at the NHS Salford Citizens’ Panel Event held at the end of March in Salford Lighthouse. A beacon demonstration application was developed to provide information to users of two stalls and one information point at the event. Samsung tablets were taken to the event with our prototype application installed for participant experiment and observation allowing us to evaluate the use of beacon technologies as a public sector events. Three beacons were placed where stalls and information points were located. Participants wishing to know details about what is happening in each place could use a tablet and relevant information would be displayed on screen when they are near to a beacon:
#PUPRU is a fascinating project, and the team are always ready to listen to ideas. If you want to know what is going on please get in touch with our project coordinator, and we are even on Twitter so you can follow us, and find out what we are talking about.