iBeacons, Tech Giants and Data, Oh My!

25 Mar

Apple’s iBeacons are being hailed as the panacea for brick and mortar problems. A bluetooth connection in your mobile device will convince shoppers to leave the comfort of their homes, stay in stores longer, and spend more money. How will iBeacon do that? Well, by buzzing your phone with a contextual advertisements every 10 seconds until you buy something or throw your phone in a lake. Ready to sign up yet?

iBeacon should be celebrated as an innovation of bringing connected devices closer together: not because it serves as another spam ad channel. That your phone can communicate with nearby instruments and deliver information is important. Your daughter has had surgery and you need to find the right medicine for her recovery. Knowing what stores carry the products and where that product is located in-store could be beneficial.

The problem with iBeacons is we don’t yet understand where the data is going. Sure, the operator who installs and uses iBeacons will get insights and new data from the iBeacons. What about the companies that provide the iBeacon technology – are they piggybacking on the data? If I install an iBeacon in my store, does Apple get access to my customer information? What are they doing with it? Will my marketing be obsolete if Google is using my iBeacon data to run their own ad campaigns?

iBeacons can be good, and bad, for the operator. Until we have more concrete evidence on the use cases, it’s hard to say how widespread iBeacon technologies will be.