They are not bigger than a matchbox but there’s a lot of potential in those little things. Some even say that they can be seen as the basis for the next generation of smartphone advertising. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg: Beacons can do a lot more to facilitate our lives and provide us with different kinds of relevant information.
Even though this exciting new technology still lacks some acceptance within our society, marketers have recognised the potential of beacons for quite a while now. Especially shopping stores use beacons to send push notifications about special deals or product discounts to smartphones. Other applications are already in place e.g. in huge buildings like airports to help people navigate towards a specific location. In combination with audio output, this can be very helpful for visually impaired people for instance.
How do beacons work? The broadcasting device (beacon) is a 1-way transmitter to the receiving smartphone, which requires a specific app installed to interact with the beacons. A unique identification number will be transmitted to a local area. The app installed on the receiving device may then look up the beacon and perform various actions, such as notifying the user.
In order to enable that data can be transmitted to the receiving device, communication protocols are required. Those protocols use Bluetooth low energy (BLE) proximity sensing to transmit the unique identifier. In 2013 Apple introduced such a protocol – called iBeacon. iBeacon was specifically designed for iOS, and is currently used by most of the beacons. Last year an open Bluetooth 4.0 protocol – called Eddystone – has been developed by Google. This protocol, in comparison to iBeacon, is supported by both iOS and Android.
The start-up Pack Editions now developed “TRUK”, a beacon that is able to support both protocols iBeacon and Eddystone. As Pack Editions recently joined the EBV supported start-up accelerator Le Connected Camp, we had the chance to talk to Pierre-Marie CONTE (CEO at Pack Editions) about their solution.
What differentiates your idea from other beacon solutions?
Most of the beacons that you can find currently are using the iBeacon protocol. That’s really great but you need to develop a specific app in order to use it. We offer to our customer a different way; we are using Eddystone-URL protocol. Therefore, you don’t need an app anymore. In addition, because web browsers like Google Chrome can use it, and any web content can be used, it is way cheaper and more powerful!
What have been the major technical challenges during the development process?
We began to work on this project more than a year ago, Eddystone wasn’t yet an official protocol, so it was difficult to know where Google wanted to go with this idea. We had to change many things from day to day, but since 14/07/2015, Eddystone is official and has specific teams working on it. Now it’s easier for us to get information and to know what Google plans for coming months.
In which areas do you see the biggest potential for the “Truks” besides retail stores and public transportation?
Obviously, retail and transportation are the main application areas for our technology, but many Smart Citiy projects need to inform people, and Truk can be a powerful way to bring the right information to the right place at the right time! We also think that all people can use it, for example, to share information during a meeting, or to track objects like luggage or pets!
Will you be able to offer complete solutions including apps and customisable concepts?
Yes, for sure! But we don’t want our customers to reinvent the wheel! Most of the time, we can find an existing web service that fits the need, if not, yeah we can create it!
How is Le Connected Camp helping you to achieve your goals?
I will give you an example: We are currently working on the next evolution of our beacon. Laurent Gratacos from EBV provided us with an all new Cypress prototyping kit to help us, and then he gave us all kinds of contacts to have a total, clean and trustful supply chain! We had all of this in less than a week!