What is beacon technology?
There’s been increasing interest in what is known as beacon technology. Usually associated with retail marketing, beacon technology first emerged in 2013. Today the technology is driving a huge growth in retail sales with a 10-fold increase in retail sales from $4 billion in 2015, to $44 billion in 2016.
Apple invented the standard for beacon technology in 2013. Essentially the technology depends on users downloading the app on their smart phone which allows them to receive messages from Beacon enabled locations. In essence, the technology employs Bluetooth low energy (BLE) wireless technology that sends a signal that can be received on a user iPhone that is near the beacon transmitter. The user must opt in to the specific Beacon application. The beacon sends out a signal every second or more to a short distance which can range from a few feet to several hundred yards.
While Apple invented the technology, it does not provide the hardware. There are several leading vendors of the beacon transmitters including Kontakt, Bluesense, Gelo, Estimote, and Google’s version, Eddystone.
CRE applications for beacon technology
So why should CRE managers have an interest in beacon technology? Essentially beacon technology is an extension of the smart building format that focuses on building automation and the Internet of Things (IOT). With beacon technology, managers can keep track of space utilization by tracking workstation use, vacancies, etc. Beacon technology can also track such things as energy use, by tracking temperature fluctuations, floor space use, employee traffic patterns, etc. CRE managers can use the technology to push messages to visitors such as meeting location, daily event schedules, and other information helpful to visitors.
In the event of emergencies, beacon technology can alert employees of incident status, exit routes, and alert rescue personnel of employee locations, and status.
Beyond office and retail use, beacon technology is being widely employed in the sports industry. Major League Baseball has deployed beacon technology in 20 of the 30 major league parks in 2015. Baseball fans can get information on concession deals, seat upgrades, and game schedules. And museums have discovered the benefits of beacon technology by delivering exhibit information, floor plans, and information on specific exhibits that replaces the audio headsets. Museums gather information on attendee interest with specific exhibits that help with future planning.
Concerns about beacon technology
Beacon technology raises the issue of personal privacy. Critics note that the technology can be abused by tracking individual’s buying behavior and location within stores and offices. Another issue is the question of uniform standards. There is no one universal standard for cell phone manufacturers, although this is expected to be remedied in the near future. The fact that users can opt out of a beacon technology solves the privacy issue, but is not a long-term solution.
Beacon technology: another trend to watch
Beacon technology is yet another example of how technology is transforming the personal experience from the workplace, to retail, sports, education, hospitality, entertainment, and an almost limitless variety of activities at the intersection of people and places. I’ve stressed the need for CRE managers and professionals to stay abreast of technology trends since it is surely technology that will define the CRE mission of the near future.