For example, say you're walking down the fresh produce aisle in your favorite grocery and you have your grocery app running to manage your shopping list. It could announce that avocados are on sale as you approach them. Or if you're lost in a big box store, beacons could help you navigate even if your GPS is being blocked by the metal ceiling.
In most cases, you need to download a specific app and opt in to these announcements, so you would likely need a separate app for each different store you visit.
Some other apps for beacons might be transit information (what time is your bus scheduled to arrive, how far are you from your gate at the airport, has your gate changed, can you make it to your flight before the gates close?)
If you have a recent iPhone you already have the capability built in to your phone - that's over 200 million iOS devices... Interestingly, your apple device can serve both as a beacon receiver and transmitter - handy for testing.
Just this week, Target just announced that that they're launching a beacon pilot in 50 stores.
These beacons will notify shoppers of deals whenever they come within range of the beacon. It only works with the Target iOS app (an Android version is coming) and requires the user to opt-in. And, it will only push two deals while the shopper is in the store to keep from spamming them with too much information. They're planning a version that will help you navigate the store based on your shopping list as well.
I'll schedule a beacon demo in TechnologyOne in September. If you're interested, watch for announcements on ChannelOne and this blog!
Can you think of other business uses for beacons?