Xamarin is holding contest to get ideas of how beacons (iBeacons) can be used to context-aware mobile applications.
I have been doing a lot of research on beacons so I thought I’d share some of my ideas.
The Concept: Find my friends
You are at a conference and need help locating your friends who are somewhere on the Expo Hall floor during the opening reception.
This is an idea I have been trying to work through for quite some period of time due to the number of technical issues involved. Here are some of the issues that we will run up against:
1. Everyone must have the Conference application installed, since it will have the beacon reception software added to it.
2. Everyone must have a phone that is Bluetooth LE compatible, which is currently available on the later versions of each operating system: iOS (7), Android (4.3), and Windows Phone (8.1)
3. The beacon software must be compatible with the phones being used.
Like the problem, the solution involves several phases or steps:
1. Add a beacon to each vendor’s booth.
2. Add beacon detection to the Conference application.
3. The Conference application will also need to be modified to add the Find My Friends functionality, which is an entirely different development effort.
This solution will require several components, each of which will handle a specific requirement.
It is assumed that the name of everyone who is at the conference will be available to the conference application. This list will be used to locate your friends.
This feature merely identifies the closest beacon. That information is then sent to a cloud-based server which will record the information for later reference.
Friend Finder Service
This cloud-based service will actually perform a search for a specific friend using the data submitted by the Beacon Identification service.
This will show you a map of the conference Expo Hall floor with the approximate location of your friend.
Bells and Whistles
The above features are just the basics to make the application function. Here are some other things you could add to make the experience much more enjoyable for the users:
- Real-time location, which would send a “ping” to the user’s phone to locate or verify their immediate location.
- Notifications and messaging to send the friend a notification like, “I’ll meet you there in two minutes.”
- The friend map can be modified to track multiple friends
- You can send a notification to a group of friends instead of just a single friend (similar to the GroupMe application)
- A side-effect of the beacon is the ability to record a person stopping by their booth. You would need to make some adjustments to the proximity calculations but it could probably be done, and eliminate the need for scanning of a visitor’s badge at the booth.
Big-Brother Creepiness Factor
This type of application rises fairly high on the big-brother creepiness factor so you can always have an “opt-out” option within the Conference application so the user can turn off all tracking features or just some of them.