On first glance, you would be forgiven for thinking iBeacons only use is to push marketing offers to consumers. Certainly, that’s been where much of the buzz and investment dollars have been concentrated so far. However, we at Lighthouse foresee a very different future. Here are 6 reasons why iBeacon is a really big deal for enterprise:
1. Know where your people (and things) are, at all times
iBeacon works indoors, is very accurate, can distinguish between floors, and operates on very little battery. With a well planned deployment, you can create detailed maps that identify where your people and assets are located in real time.
This is critical for two reasons. First, industries with dangerous or restricted areas can now monitor and quickly identify where their people are, at any given time. This has huge advantages for workplaces in mining, tunneling, energy and construction. Second, you can now maintain service level compliance with location specific reminders, activity tracking and triggered exception reports. This is game-changing for facilities management, janitorial services and security industries.
In these instances, beacon deployments can replace high cost audits, time consuming sign-in practices, and find and seek activity.
2. It is like Google Analytics, for your physical workplace
Those who work in call centers and digital teams know the importance of using analytics to improve operations. Think first call resolution, employee utilization, abandonment rates, and click through rates – these are just some of the measures watched with a keen and persistent eye.
Yet, data on ground operations can often go wanting. Beacons offer several advantages here. Beacons are cheap ($5-$30), small and very easy to deploy. If your people or assets carry a smart device (or potentially a beacon), you can now develop sophisticated workforce analytics. This includes data on process loop and dwell times, paths of movement and floor area utilization.
Also – this is not just about people. Innovators like as Emanate Wireless are creating new beacons that broadcast whether or not an asset is in use – for example a ventilator or pump within a hospital ward. This provides critical information to operations managers that have previously had to rely on anecdotal and time-motion studies.
Real time map of employee operations
3. Enter data once, at the point of capture
Data is captured throughout the workplace: from direct observation and mechanical meters, at specific workstations to common areas, from people or machines. In many cases, this data is recorded on paper then transcribed later. Sometimes it is recorded digitally, though isn’t tagged with location or time stamps. In either case, the onus is on the employee to remember what to check, where and when. This can result in missed or lost observations, data submission delays, and lost time to trigger the next activity.
Beacons provide a cheap mechanism to ensure consistent and timely capture of data. Placing beacons at points of interest can trigger data entry forms to be pushed to employees at the right time and place. These forms can be dynamic, changing depending on time of day or management requirements. Responses (or failure to respond) are tracked, immediately triggering next activity depending on the results. In all, it means that digital manuals, entry forms and alarms can be delivered at the right time and place for your employees.
4. iBeacon + sensors = power … if used correctly
Beacons continue to evolve at a rapid rate. While all beacons deliver identification information (e.g. UUID, major and minor), several now intersperse this signal with additional information captured from their environment (e.g. temperature, accelerometer, humidity). However, as described by Kontakt, these sensors are only useful if they deliver real value to the beacon network.
And that’s where enterprise applications become important. There exists a range of industries and workplaces (e.g. mining, construction, chemical production and pharmaceuticals) that would benefit from an inexpensive, easily deployable sensor network. Sensors could include carbon monoxide, nitrogen, ammonia, acetone and chloroform among others. When you combine these sensors with the ability to push content or alarms to both employees and management – you can start making incremental improvements in workplace safety at relatively low cost.
5. Interact based on location, no check-in required
Interacting only with those in a specific area or zone can be difficult: you either broadcast too far and without restriction, require colleagues to ‘check-in’, or otherwise send communications based on pre-determined parameters.
Beacon platforms change this by monitoring which devices enter and exit specific locations, then managing content delivery to ensure it reaches the desired target audience. Add to this the ability to develop exemption rules based on location, schedule content based on previous location, and finally enable location specific live chat – and you have one powerful communication platform.
6. It is just the beginning
One of the best parts of my job at Lighthouse is working with clients to ideate then realize the potential for beacon technology to improve core business operations. In the last 4 months alone I have worked with drone developers, security firms, farmers, facility management companies, wildlife conservationists, health practitioners and tour operators. Whether it be beacons, geofencing or GPS technology – there will always be a need to understand and respond based on an individual or things exact location. Beacons have a bright future ahead, feel free to let me know where you think the greatest benefit will eventuate.