There are no hotter subjects in retail tech, and tech in general, than iBeacons and the "Internet of things." Today's news that Made.com is using near field communication (NFC) to offer shoppers
further information on products which can then be emailed to them got me thinking. What if you connected the two? What if iBeacons were connected somehow to the Internet of things?
iBeacons side, there is a lot of highly interesting work going into not only connecting single shops with customers but also entire shopping streets -- Regent Street is very much on the forefront with
this advance. The Internet of things is also starting to move beyond presentations and into the hands of consumers with British Gas offering heating control via its Hive service and Google, of course,
So at the moment, iBeacons rely on a shop or shops interacting with the customer in some way. Special offers can be relayed and coupons displayed, codes for click and
collect can be presented, the correct aisle pointed out and so on -- presumably payment and ordering will be thrown into the mix at some stage too.
My question, then, is why stop with the
customer? Why not aim to talk to the customer's "things?" It's a little way off, of course, but picture the scene. Trust me -- it's one we've all been a part of. You ask yourself, or are asked, how
are we doing for sauce, bread, butter, milk and so on (delete as appropriate, although all have been in play at some stage during a shopping trip).
The piece of kit that could unlock this
could well be the phone in your pocket that the iBeacon is interacting with. Presumably there could be two options. The smartphone acts as a conduit for the iBeacon to enquire of a home network if any
goods are required. The other would be, presumably for privacy and security reasons, the smartphone is already informed what the household requires before it leaves the front door.
not be the best example, though, because the fridge that somehow knows whether the butter tub is full or nearly empty is probably more science fiction than reality -- and knowing our kids, the wrong
tub would be placed there and we'd be forever ordering or running out of the stuff.
What about the printer? It knows if it needs paper or ink cartridges. The washing machine might be able
to tell if an enlarged holder of detergent built into it were running low and the same for the dishwasher. Look at everything around the house and the loo roll holder might well send a signal that
could save embarrassment later on and the bathroom cabinet could ensure that toothpaste and other essentials are topped up.
Add to that the smartphone itself -- which may well have been
used itself, or can tap into tablet and PC use -- to carry around a wish list of items that you may have been searching for online or perhaps were located but were not in stock, and the iBeacon has a
lot of very useful two-way data to pick up on.
Rather than just send out "please buy some stuff" messages, it can be a lot more helpful. That DVD the kids love is released today -- click
here to have a copy waiting for you in x store. Oh, and next door has got a deal on perfume, just in case you forgot whose birthday it is next week. While you're at it, go up a level in the mall and
there's printer ink on offer and the store next to the car park has got rinse aid, just in case you weren't aware the dishwasher is getting low. They've also got a special on AA batteries -- you need
4 because the Wii controllers are almost out of power. Might want to get the promotional pack of 12 though, because the tv remote's only got a couple of weeks left.
A year ago this would
have sounded like science fiction, but trust me, within another year -- by which time it will be normal to adjust your heating remotely -- this will all sound a lot more feasible.
connect to just a smartphone when you can use iBeacons to connect to a person's Internet of things?