The current generation of bluetooth low energy Beacons for proximity engagement (iBeacons etc.) provide brands with endless opportunities to engage customers with contextually relevant messaging. What’s more is that they can be easily deployed and managed, particularly in small to medium-scale environments. A retail outlet, for example, can place a few iBeacons in-store, add them to a platform online and then automate personalised location-based messaging to target their clientele. This is still manageable even if you have a large number of locations.
Where it can become more complex is in dealing with more ambitious deployments where the number of beacons can be of the order of a thousand or more in one location. In a very large scale environment, such as a mega mall or skyscraper, the biggest overhead is the manual set-up and ongoing maintenance of the iBeacons.
A new innovation on the horizon, Mesh Beacons, could make deployments a whole lot easier. With this new form of beacon, the hardware can be configured from one centralised browser-based dashboard. This is made possible by leveraging wireless mesh networking techniques already successfully employed in technologies like Wi-Fi. In a Mesh Beacon Network all Beacons can communicate with each other and a percentage of beacons are connected to the Internet. This bring the entire network online and allows them to communicate with a cloud platform and be centrally controlled. This has the capacity to greatly reduce the cost and labour involved in deployment within a larger environment.
Two-way digital dialogue
Another feature of Mesh Beacons is the possibility of two way communication. The first generation of Beacons simply broadcast data such as the Beacons unique identifier. Beacons In a Mesh Network can potentially allow smartphones to connect to the network. In a retail setting this could allow for a two-way digital dialogue between the merchant and customer. A customer could use the technology to request assistance, or save items for future purchase with the data connection provided by the same beacon technology that locates the user. Bluetooth 4,0 is a requirement for this technology to work but this is already supported by the majority of smartphones.
Mesh Beacons are currently in their infancy but they could really complement Beacon ready, enterprise grade mobile marketing automation platforms. We look forward to seeing how this technology will evolve and develop over time.