Do you know your iBeacons from your push notifications? In this interview Owen Geddes, CEO & Founder, Appflare, tells us what they’re all about and how they’re one of the early steps that leads to the IoT. Geddes is taking part in a Think Tank debate on IoT at the Broadband World Forum, which is happening from the 21st – 23rd October 2014 at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, Amsterdam.
Tell us about Appflare, what are iBeacons, and why should we be getting excited by them?
Apple introduced iBeacon as part of its iOS7 in mid-2013. Put simply, iBeacons are Bluetooth-enabled indoor positioning systems. The beacons inform enabled apps as soon as a customer walks into a store, or specific area – which means a customer can be sent a push notification, such as a relevant or timely offer.
Appflare is a global leader in iBeacon technology, security and deployment. We go beyond beacons, with a managed service and secure platform. We supported the first iBeacon rollout in the UK earlier this year, with a number of EAT restaurants in central London.
iBeacons are incredibly exciting and are set to revolutionise retail. For consumers, they have the scope to hugely enhance their shopping experience. They will be sent relevant information, at the right time, by the retailers whose store they are already in, and whose app they have already have installed. Their privacy is also protected, as they will only receive messages if they have opted in to receive push notifications.
For retailers, beacons are a huge differentiator. Analysts predict that annual retail payments on mobile handsets and tablets will exceed £430 billion by 2018. Beacons enable retailers to communicate with customers through their increasingly preferred medium in a new way. Beacons also have the scope to be used beyond offers, to loyalty schemes, check-ins, tickets and even payments.
Why will having an array of connected devices make such a difference to people’s lives?
In theory, from a consumer perspective, having connected devices should make their life easier – saving time and hassle as technology intuitively communications across platforms and devices. However, despite there being a lot of news on connected devices, we are yet to have any form of market standardisation, so the theory is not yet in practice. Obviously there are some ecosystems that work well, of which Apple is probably the best example, but there is a long way to go before we can truly feel the benefits of ‘connected devices.’
What is the major challenge of achieving a real Internet of Things?
Well standardisation is clearly a big challenge, but perhaps the biggest factor holding back the Internet of Things is security. Gartner reports there are more than 2.5 billion connected devices today, and by 2020, there will be more than 30 billion. When you connect something to the Internet, someone will try and hack it. If connected together, the risk becomes even higher.
We had to address this with our own proposition. Many beacon solutions on the market today are at risk from competitor or rogue apps that can use other beacons to deliver their own message as customers walk in the door, potentially tempting them away with counteroffers.
In order to ensure our beacons were secure, we developed a platform called Secureflare. This encrypts our beacons; requiring apps to ask for location data after seeing a beacon, ensuring only apps that are authorised can access the customer’s location.
Will adhering to standards be vital to the successful creation on an IoT?
It is well publicised that standardisation bodies like the ITU and ETSI are developing protocols, systems and frameworks to enable the Internet of Things. As we are only at the beginning of the hype cycle it is understandable that these haven’t yet been fully defined – but they will need to be put in place before the Internet of Things can fully realise its potential.
What is your personal vision of the IoT?
It’s easy to get carried away with visions of the driverless car and the fridge that has a direct link to your favourite supermarket. However, for me, I think that main innovations will happen via the mobile phone. People are increasingly reliant on their mobile and adding to its functionality – from socialising, photography, shopping and banking. I envisage that this functionality will increase. There are many more app innovations to come, which will put the mobile at the heart of the Internet of Things.
What are you most looking forward to with regard to the Broadband World Forum?
The Broadband World Forum is an excellent conference to get a steer on the latest innovations in connectivity, which is the underlying foundation of the Internet of Things. I am also looking forward to catching up with industry peers and old colleagues – telling them all about the merits of iBeacons of course!