What will happen if all the merchants on Apple Passbook also start installing iBeacons?

We have been writing a lot about the prospects and potential of iBeacons over the last 6 months. Some merchants have started adopting them and others are implementing them.

In this article, I will try to analyze the high-level impact of putting iBeacons at every merchant/company that has also implemented an app on passbook. I love coming up with these fun-filled, what-if scenarios as a solution seeker. What will happen in terms of end user experience if all merchants using Passbook also start using iBeacons. And since all of these merchants are heavily bought into the Apple eco-system concept, it might not be too far fetched an idea to imagine these things happening.

iBeacons is based on Bluetooth technology, which implies that it will enable transactions with longer range: up-to 150 feet to be precise. And in the age of context, iBeacon promises to take the concept of Location Based Services to unprecedented heights.

Passbook is not a very old concept, and with iBeacons things just got started. Ofcourse experts and Tech press is already appreciating the utility of both of them, in isolation. Over the last one year, Passbook has shown us how geo-locations can be used to drive customer engagement. And I would like to argue that iBeacons can help improve this location functionality, and give more control to the merchants to provide value added services to their customers.

Let us try to understand its implications in some of the key sectors:

Aviation: Companies like Delta Airlines, Lufthansa, British Airways, United Airlines and American Airlines are already having their Passbook app. The latest ones to join the bandwagon are Jet Blue and Alaska Airlines. If these players integrate the iBeacons at the airport, and in their aircrafts along with Passbook, it will enhance the flying experience of the end users in many ways.

For instance, iBeacon will realize you are near the boarding gate through your boarding pass on passbook, and could offer you a free/paid upgrade to the business class based on availability and your relationship with the airline. If you realize that you have extra baggage than you could pay for it without leaving your seat in the lobby, and perhaps you could even shop the merchandise available on the fight, without looking into the magazine!

Retail: Some of the companies having a Passbook app in this domain are Home depot, Target, American Eagle Outfitters, Office Depot, REI, Gyft, Living Social and Duane Reade. Some of the recent entrants are: Sephora and Walgreens.

Combining iBeacons with Passbook will enable retailers to customize promotions to particular locations in their outlets, and then, send the promotions to the user’s iPhone directly, using Passbook, even when they are not in store. A pass will pop-up on the user’s lock screen when he/she crosses the threshold of a GPS location. What’s more, the micro-locations can be defined and personalized by the retailers to offer a better customer experience.

Some call it augmented reality, and others call it super-intelligent machines but whatever you call it, some of these solutions are coming soon to the merchant near you.

Travel & Tourism: Some of the prominent players in this industry like Viator, Starwood preferred Guest, and AMTrak are already using Passbook app.

Use of iBeacons will make travel and vacation experience much more smoother for the end user by providing features like iBeacons based check-ins at the hotels, food/dining options on the move according to user’s preference and easy shopping at in-hotel shops.

In a hotel iBeacon could guide you to where the swimming pool is and on the way you could also probably order a beer. This is the connected world that technologists are imagining for you. Where location, commerce, payments, offers, rewards, transactions, and money comes together. The intersection of these things would create innovative solutions we have never seen before.

Event Industry: Some of the early adopters of Passbook were Live nation, Eventbrite & Ticketmaster, while ThrillCall Live Music & Walletini also joined in later. Now imagine a system which takes into account Passbook, iphone and iBeacons. iBeacons could detect your entry pass at events automatically, which are booked through these firms and appear on the passbook app. Besides that, you may receive targeted promotions and updates about other similar events at the venue and even afterwards.

It could also inform you about the food options available at the venue and guide you to those spots in an event. After the event, it could share some event pictures, videos and perhaps discounts available on similar events at different venues, based on your history.

At a movie or a play you could order some snacks for the interval without leaving your seat. The possibilities are endless and it will be interesting to see what businesses are able to offer with the technology being available.

Cafes & Restaurants: Many outlets like Starbucks, Pinkberry & Dun Well Doughnuts are already using Passbook and offering their apps to customers.

This is one area where Apple has already made headway and filed a Patent. The patent application directly covers a unique system whereby a user of an iOS device could not only be presented with options of local restaurants but also the actual wait times and seating availability in real time. The patent goes on to explain remote (say integrated with Passbook) and in-restaurant ordering systems that allow customers and wait-staff to place and modify orders. Finally there is a payment option that would allow for pre/post payments of the order.

Apart from these, the marriage of iBeacon and Passbook can lead to numerous other possibilities. There can be many innovative ways for businesses to integrate these technologies. We have already heard the rumors about Apple’s plan to create museum tours, based on iBeacons. Besides, it can help the visually challenged in many ways while shopping, and solutions in the public transport systems. The list keeps growing. Ofcourse the solution providers have to take into account security, and fungibility with other parts of the eco-system.

With iBeacons, merchants can take a step forward, from simple geo-location (possible with Passbook) to pin-pointed location. What we have experienced so far is amazing: offers pop up on our iPhones when you cross an aisle in a retail outlet. Sweet!