MLB Tests iBeacon App Feature To Send Mobile Coupons

Major League Baseball likes to be on the cutting edge when it comes to adopting the latest mobile innovations. So it’s hardly surprising the league is among the first to test the buzzed-about new iBeacon feature in iOS 7 in a commercial application.

iBeacon uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology that can trigger alerts in a user’s app within a limited range through small external sensors placed at a given site. A marketer or retailer might use the technology to automatically send a mobile coupon or special offer when a customer enters a store. Or a ballpark.

On Thursday, Major League Baseball Advance Media (MLBAM), the league’s interactive unit, demonstrated a prototype integration of iBeacon in its At The Ballpark app at Citi Field in New York. MLB officials showed how coupons can pop up on a fan’s iPhone as soon as they walk into a souvenir shop. And other features appear when fans are near landmarks, according to an AP report.

But that’s just the start. “Truthfully, coupons barely scratch the surface about the capabilities of this,” MLBAM spokesman Matthew Gould. “It has the potential to be a fully immersive and customizable personal mobile experience. It allows us to do what we do best, deliver powerful technology to better serve each club's fans.”

He added that the league plans to formally incorporate the iBeacon capability in next season’s edition of its free At The Ballpark app, launched last year as a way for users to check into stadiums to receive offers for things like discounted food and team merchandise as well as buy tickets and share updates via social media.

Most recently, the app has added features like the ability for fans to upgrade their seats even after a game has started, and to store purchased tickets within the app. Earlier this year, MLBAM also struck a deal with Qualcomm to supply technical support to improve Wi-Fi networks at 30 Major League Baseball ballparks.

Gould said the rollout of iBeacon will be entirely customizable by ballpark, so there are no standard requirements for teams.

Apple itself has said little publicly about iBeacon beyond referencing it in a slide during its presentation rolling out the new iPhone models and iOS 7. But that hasn’t stopped agencies, marketers and retailers from envisioning plenty of business and promotional uses.

“We believe it has significant potential--especially for retailers and any marketer engaged with event sponsorship or location-based marketing,” stated a recent Razorfish whitepaper. The agency surmised iBeacon could eventually power mobile payments as well.
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