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Beacons will make the world go round

By Mark Killian / February 3, 2014

Beacons will make the world go round

Modern technology is all about improving our day-to-day lives, and no innovation promises to do that better than the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transmitters most commonly referred to as beacons. Regular readers of are already familiar with the numerous ways beacons will transform the shopping experience, but how will they help us once we exit the mall or supermarket? Oh buddy, where do I begin? Let’s start with breakfast.

Rise and smell the beacons

If you’re like most people, your phone screen is the first thing you see when you rise each morning. With beacons, that trusty device can do so much more than wake you up with your favorite song. Imagine, once you disable your alarm and dislodge the crust from your eyes, you adjust the thermostat in your hallway so it’s not an icebox when you finally will yourself out from under the comfort of your comforter. Thermostat beacons like the EverSense Aura allow users to monitor and adjust the temperature of individual rooms with a few swipes of their pointer finger.

Once your breakfast has been consumed and you’re clothed from head to toe, it’s time to gather your belongings and head for the door. Rather than retracing your steps to shut off all your lights and electronics, let beacons take care of those pesky last-minute tasks. Just walk out of signal range and your beacons will automatically shut off their corresponding devices. You’ll never have to worry about leaving a light on again. And with beacon-enabled door locks, you’ll be able to come and go as you please without ever reaching for your keys.

Driven by beacons

By now, you’ve eaten your breakfast, gotten dressed and bid farewell to your domicile. That’s where the beacon magic ends, right? (Rhetorical question.) For car owners, beacons are paving the way to a smoother and safer driving experience. Picture a beacon placed by your garage door that asks you if you’d like it to open whenever you come near. By pressing Yes on your device, you could have your garage door open before you even buckle your seatbelt. Don’t have a garage? Don’t worry. There are still plenty of other uses for beacons in your vehicle.

High Mobility, a tech startup comprised of former Jaguar, Volvo, Land Rover, Fiat and Koensigsegg employees, has invented a car beacon that allows drivers to pay at gas pumps and parking meters without ever swiping a credit card. Hey, doesn’t NFC already do that? Not from 50 meters away it doesn’t. It’s also worth noting that beacons are a little friendlier on a business’s annual expense report. And with the growing potential of BLE, the High Mobility device promises to offer even more functions, eventually. After all, this young company just recently graduated from Startup Bootcamp Berlin on $22,000 budget. With a little more time and money, the sky’s the limit for High Mobility.

The beacons on the bus go round and round

Turn that frown upside down, public-transit commuters. Beacons have just as many benefits for bus riders as they do gas guzzlers. Anyone who’s ever sat on a bench like Forrest Gump and blindly waited for their bus knows how incredibly annoying that guessing game can be. Did I already miss it? Did it break down? Is Sandra Bullock behind the wheel?

With beacon-equipped vehicles, passengers will know the exact whereabouts of their bus and how much longer it will take for it to reach their stop. They can even enable push notifications that let them know when their chariot is just a few stops away. Some cities have attempted this kind of notification system with GPS services like NextBus, but a satellite signal sent from space is far less accurate and secure than a beacon placed at each bus stop.

Beacons could also make purchasing individual trips a breeze by allowing passengers to pay their fare with an in-app transaction. As the rider boards the bus they’ll receive a notification asking them if they’d like to purchase a trip. They would then simply accept, show their phone to the bus driver and take their seat without having to fumble around with spare change.

Beacons during the workday

As you’ve probably guessed, even your office is a habitat for beacon technology. Head honchos will be overjoyed by the beacon’s ability to increase productivity on the job by streamlining menial tasks. Take taking attendance, for instance. Strategically placed beacons can track the arrival and departure time of each employee as they enter and exit the door. Beacons could also be used to reduce power bills by shutting off copiers, printers, computers and other office equipment when employees go home for the evening.

Need a little break from your workplace? Walk down to a beacon-equipped coffee shop and order your favorite cup of joe without even speaking to a barista. Just download their app, save your favorite drink and walk through the door, where a subtly placed beacon asks, “Would you like your usual?” Tap Yes, and before you know it, your beverage will be sitting at the pickup counter and your mobile wallet will take care of the payment. And if you feel like trying something a little different, just tap No and make your way to the order counter.

Beacons and biceps

When the workday is done, you decide to hit the gym. The problem is, you’re not the only one who needs to let off a little steam. For fitness centers, beacons make it easier for members to check in, reserve lockers, sign up for exercise classes and most importantly, monitor machine availability. And since everyone listens to music on their smartphones these days anyways, it shouldn’t be too hard to convince members to download the corresponding app.

As the beacons and apps cooperate with one another, gyms will get a better idea of which machines get the most use and at what times of day. Speaking of machines, less experienced patrons can receive video demonstrations of each workout apparatus via smartphone or tablet. They just have to sit down, fire up the gym’s app and let the beacon do the rest.

For personal trainers, beacons could bring the fun of scavenger hunts to their customized workout routines by having their client’s “check off” each exercise on their mobile device as they transition from station to station. Beacons could also revolutionize the juice bar by allowing members to pay for beverages and snacks via push notification. The only thing beacons can’t do is lift the weights for you.

Bedtime for beacons

You’ve worked up a sweat and now it’s time to cool down for the evening. You pull into your driveway, where a beacon leads you safely into your garage and closes the door behind you. As you enter your dwelling space — without reaching for your keys — your house’s security system app unlocks the door, disables the alarm and turns on the lights.

You throw your gym bag in the laundry room, only to realize your trusty canine is nowhere in sight. You hop back in the car and begin searching the neighborhood. Luckily, you bought him an activity-tracking collar with beacon capabilities, like a future version of the Whistle dog collar. Your phone alerts you when you’re within 200 yards of your best friend, so you park and pursue on foot. You call his name and glance down at your phone to see the tracker dot rapidly approaching. Before you know it, your pup is safe and sound in your backseat and you set a reminder on your phone to fix the fence this weekend.

After returning rover to the doghouse, eating dinner, hopping in the shower and throwing on your pjs, you curl back under the covers. Your tablet asks you if you’d like to watch your recorded tv shows, turn on your electric blanket and set an alarm for tomorrow. You say Yes, lean back and let the glow of your screen lull you to sleep — the perfect ending to another beacon-filled day.

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