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Beacons and the Physical Web 101

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by Chuck Martin
January 06, 2016


Chuck Martin

Chuck Martin, CEO of the Mobile Future Institute, says the Internet of Things is changing how companies do business, with successful retailers placing a high value on beacons.  Jason Parker, digital strategy director at Leo Burnett, believes the Physical Web will be the biggest trend of 2016 since it will dramatically change the way people interact with the world. 

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BKON beacons and the Physical Web

BKON uses the newest dimension of the Internet – the Physical Web – and Bluetooth® Low Energy beacons to help deliver content -- information and experiences -- to Smartphones and other mobile devices in the hands of consumers who are nearby.  It's the heart of proximity marketing.

How does it work?

Small wireless devices called beacons placed anywhere consumer information is desired continuously transmit a simple URL that can be read by any consumer with a Physical Web browser. The Physical Web is a new component of the Internet, but it uses the same web technology we are already familiar with.  Google’s Chrome is the most prominent browser (sometimes called Physical Web scanners) to support the Physical Web so far, with Opera and Firefox OS quickly following. There are also other browsers capable of viewing nearby Physical Web beacons.

To scan for any available information, all a consumer needs to do is swipe down on their mobile display to see a list of nearby content, sorted by proximity.  One tap on the desired message and a web page opens showing any communications the beacon owner wants to share.

For instance, a restaurant could list their specials of the day and offer a promotional coupon.  A shopkeeper can show how that dress could be accessorized.  A "For Sale" sign could offer a video tour of a house.  A performing artist could let you download a song and his concert schedule.  The idea is to engage the consumer in a richer, more experiential way with stories, content and information with context based on their proximity. The Physical Web, a browser and beacons make that all possible.

What makes the Physical Web so powerful?

It offers a universal way to interact with any smart device and can be viewed with a browser instead of an app. 

Consumers are already on app overload.  People don’t want 20 more apps, 20 more downloads, 20 more passwords and 20 more push notifications.  Apps are competing with each other for space on mobile devices, as well as the user’s attention and the problem is only growing.  At the 2014 Apple Development Conference in 2014, Tim Cook said that the number of available apps had already topped 1 million.

But a browser is a universal interface to an Internet world consumers already understand and readily use.  As the key to the Physical Web, the browser gives consumers relevant information, assessable when THEY want it, WHERE they need it and BECAUSE they want it.  As something of the web’s discovery service, the Physical Web is fostering revolutionary changes in how we interact with the world around us.  Experts such as Jason Parker, digital strategy director at Leo Burnett, have projected it will be huge in 2016… the next big thing for mobile.

For retailers or content creators, a beacon, a browser and the Physical Web are a lot more familiar to consumers and a lot less costly than building and marketing an app whose usefulness may be limited.  The browser approach to proximity marketing is scalable, with no limitations and room to grow.  An app… not so much.

How do consumers know there’s information nearby?

They’ll see the universal Physical Web symbol in the window, on the door, on a sign.  Or they may assume the Physical Web is around… and check their browser to see.  This is a non-intrusive technology. No push-notifications, just visual reminders in the environment to get consumers used to engaging with the Physical Web nearby.

How do merchants harness this tool so it doesn't overwhelm them or their customers?

There is a service called PHY.net, that serves beacon owners as a remote content control on the Physical Web. It’s software that helps content providers organize and control one or hundreds (even thousands) of beacons and their messages all at once… from thousands of miles away, if need be.  PHY.net powers proximity marketing.

         


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