2013-12-05

How do I use CliqTags with beacons?

Estimote iBeacon

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Apple released the iBeacon concept simultaneously with iOS 7. It provides a way to identify places and context via small beacons that communicate an identity that apps can act on.

iBeacon (and similar beacons) can be used indoors (in shops, conference centers, airports etc) and outdoors (on posters, shop windows etc). For the purpose of marketing it’s not the least useful for product information, coupons, sweepstakes and the like. It will also be used for triggering payments etc.

Small/low-cost beacons are placed where certain information is to be conveyed. The beacon is set to a specific identity, and when a mobile phone is coming close it will be told the beacon’s identity. Provided there’s an app set to expect that identity (and maybe many more, like CliqTags Beacon Reader) it can do what it wants based on that information. It’s also possible to roughly define how big area a beacon should cover, so you can establish multiple different-sized “cells” for different purposes. Multiple beacons can have the same identity provided the same result is expected.

Technologies involved

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE, or Bluetooth Smart) is used for the communication between beacons and phones. iPhone has supported BLE since 4S and there are also Android phones supporting BLE.

iBeacon is not fundamentally tied to Apple products: There’s a ready solution for providing iBeacon support also for Android, so practically speaking iPhones and Android phones will be supported, and over time probably also other phones.

An iBeacon reports three values: a UUID property that typically defines the owner of the iBeacon, a major property that typically defines the venue, and a minor property that typically defines the place within the venue, but there are no strict rules for how these values should be used. An app detects the values it cares about, and can essentially do anything based on the information.

This makes iBeacon different from QR Codes and NFC: The latter ones also contain the semantics and data. Android will e.g. navigate automatically to a site (e.g. one on CliqTags) if an NFC tag contains a URL, etc. iBeacon always requires a context/brand-specific app.

Use with CliqTags

iBeacon adds a new way to access information hosted at CliqTags, complementing QR Codes, NFC etc. What method(s) to go for depends very much on the situation and what devices should be covered (e.g. NFC is not supported by iOS except for use with Passbook), and they can be combined for the same content depending on context (QR Codes for magazines, iBeacon for shops etc). We’d be happy to advise you on what would work best based on your needs.

As indicated earlier, there’s no built-in app for iBeacon in iOS 7 and later. Instead, such apps are usually developed on a case by case basis, yet by using CliqTags Beacon Reader and CliqTags, the same app could be used broadly (e.g. in all shops of a certain retail chain), showing different information depending on shop location, location within a shop, time etc, and this without having to write a line of code.

Let us know if you are looking into using iBeacon or CliqTags in general. We can describe how you can make best use of the technology and also develop needed apps and content using CliqTags.