In Blog Articles, Location-Based Services

Virtualization has been around the computing world for more than a decade now. For the non-techies (or even the sorta-techies) among us, virtualization basically means using software to make one piece of hardware act like multiple—you end up with many “virtual” devices. This technological innovation has opened up all kinds of possibilities, including the cloud computing services that enable you to stream your favorite basketball game right to your phone.

The latest cool tech making new experiences possible in the mobile space is virtual BLE beacon technology, which essentially “virtualizes” physical beacons. Mobile platforms like Phunware use beacons as sensors to trigger all kinds of cool mobile experiences—from providing indoor blue dot navigation to sending you a personalized push notification with 25% off those boots you’ve been wanting when you’re just outside the shoe department.

A virtual BLE beacon is essentially an imaginary beacon that can do the same job as a real one. From a tech standpoint, the virtual beacon works differently than the physical one. From the marketer or user perspective, they’re the same. They can both be used to trigger engaging mobile experiences and to gather location, time and other contextual data that marketers can use to understand and target their audiences.

To learn more, check out the eBook Location Technology 101.

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Virtual Beacon Systems Are Easier to Install, Maintain and Manage

Physical beacons are awesome. They’re small and affordable, and they can be placed discreetly in any number of locations in a given environment. But like any physical device, they have to be installed and maintained by a person. Someone has to put them in place, change the batteries and move them around when needed.

Because multiple virtual beacons are enabled by one piece of hardware, however, they require installing and maintaining far fewer devices. The vast majority of the management and maintenance happens through a simple software dashboard. That saves time and hassle.

Virtual Beacon Systems Are Incredibly Flexible

You may not be able to stick a physical beacon on an incredibly high ceiling, but you sure can slap a virtual beacon up there. They can be added easily to an existing Wi-Fi infrastructure or physical beacon implementation. You can even create a hybrid solution that combines physical and virtual beacons to help balance costs.

Making Location-Enabled Experiences More Attainable and More Awesome

Flexibility and easy management mean that virtual BLE beacons bring location-enabled experiences within reach of more organizations—and more people. These same qualities make it viable to install more virtual than physical beacons in any given space. As a result, you get much greater accuracy and performance. And thanks to machine learning in the software backbone, the more a virtual beacon system works, the smarter and more accurate it becomes.

It’s Exciting Here at the Tipping Point

When people first got smartphones, nobody really imagined all of the different ways we’d use them—and there are still possibilities to uncover. As technology matured, use cases grew exponentially, and suddenly we don’t know what we’d do without our smartphones.

Virtual BLE beacon technology is poised to be the innovation that makes location-enabled mobile experiences ubiquitous. But for the average Joes and Janes among us, it might be hard to imagine all the ways organizations can use vBLE technology. Let’s take a look.

  • A hospital nurse administrator could monitor and track every piece of valuable patient-care equipment that moves around departments—IV pumps, patient beds and more—right from her phone. She could know exactly where Doctor Adebayo is and how many minutes it’s going to take for her to get from the patient floor to the ICU. She could get an instant alert that Mr. Davis has been in recovery by himself for too long, and speed an assistant to make sure he’s all right.
  • A regional outdoor store manager could quickly and easily move beacons around to gather data on shopper dwell time near a new display. When a seasonal summer department goes up, store marketers could install virtual beacons in the area to trigger highly targeted “Happy Camper” messages to shoppers right when they peer into that cool new tent, and trigger the mobile app to change over to a camping theme throughout. In the stockroom, temporary employees could use mobile to guide their re-stocking efforts, getting turn-by-turn navigation through the store and precisely to the exact rack where that flannel shirt needs to hang.
  • An airport could install a dense array of virtual beacons to collect highly granular traffic data in baggage claim areas, leveraging all of that information to understand passenger traffic patterns in detail before a planned remodel. During the holidays, the airport could expand its beacon system throughout the terminal, enabling multiple marketing partnerships with retail and food / beverage concessionaires—and delighting app-using passengers with seasonal savings, or even a holiday-themed app scavenger hunt to help keep weary traveling families entertained.

These ideas are only a jumping-off point. As mobile continues to evolve and mature, location-enabled experiences and use cases will continue to expand. Personally, I can’t wait.

If you’d like to learn more about how connected mobile experiences are going to transform operations, management and the customer experience across verticals, watch our on-demand webinar “Mobile at the Intersection of Hardware and Software.”

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