Business intelligence through beacons

May 13, 2014

When looking at business intelligence, what matters to you as an organisation? Is it understanding how people are moving around the building and whether they are spending too much time trying to get to meeting rooms? It could be understanding how much time meetings are taking, or how long maintenance workers are spending looking after equipment in the field?  Or you might need marketing intelligence about events or activity, to discover how many people are passing your stand at an exhibition, who possibly could be interested in finding out more information, but don’t want the hard sell.

We live in an age where there is access to an avalanche of micro and macro data that, if we choose to, helps us improve the way we live and work. Mobile devices have been key to helping to drive this data forward, by providing users with the ability to track their activity and take action on the information they are given.

One of the key ways this is being used, in the consumer world, is in health trackers. Smartphone users have taken to health and fitness apps like ducks to water. It has led to wearables becoming a new major category that has captured the attention of many technology companies. In 2012 alone, the global wearables market was worth more than $2.5 billion in revenue – 61% of all the wearables are fitness or activity trackers, with 46% of people who track their health saying it has changed their approach to maintaining wellness.

Taking this from the micro, the individual wanting to improve their health; to the macro, a company getting better intelligence about operations; it is data driven through mobile that is driving the big revolution. In the past, companies would have had to invest millions in either hiring research consultants, to do detailed analysis of movements or operations; or use expensive equipment to analyse trends.

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Whilst mobile can go so far for delivering information about how users are navigating around apps, they start to fall down when delivering information about real-world activity. Tracking via GPS becomes a privacy and logistical nightmare, one that hugely impacts the battery life of a device.

This is where beacons come in. Placing beacons in and around buildings, in key locations, helps to deliver exactly the right type of information back to the business, that helps to improve decision making.

For example,

  • Beacons placed in meeting rooms have the advantage of delivering information about who was in attendance, how long they stayed and how long it took them to get there.
  • Beacons placed on an event stand help to provide information about the number of people who passed by, whether they came onto the stand, whether they asked for more information and can be used to identify potential leads.
  • Beacons on equipment, inside or outside buildings, can deliver information about how long was spent maintaining it.
  • Beacons on gym equipment can deliver information about how long was spent using the equipment and how users are moving around a gym.

There are a huge number of scenarios where beacons can provide data that would be otherwise tricky, and costly, to access. Of course there are certain barriers to this. Chiefly, the right app needs to be on the phone of the user and Bluetooth needs to be turned on. Overcoming this will always rely on providing a user experience and value proposition that makes the user want the app. In the case of apps for employees, they will have the apps on their devices to help them in their work life. Beacons will provide these apps with added contextual information and experiences that improve the overall experience and make life easier.

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