Are iBeacons the future of the accommodation industry?

As ‘smart hotels’ inch closer to becoming a reality, third-party startups have begun to develop iBeacon technology for the accommodation industry.

Already setting up a local hotel in Chico CA, HelloTel plans to release a production video documentary explaining how the whole process works.

UPDATE: accomnews has learnt exclusively that HelloTel will be launching in Australia within the next few hours, with an official announcement set for tomorrow. We were also informed that the iBeacon backend will launch nation-wide in 5-7 days. 

iBeacons are essentially sticky sensor devices that can be installed inside a property, on walls or attached to an object. They push notifications into nearby mobile devices and were first hailed by marketing professionals as the future of advertising.

Now people are thinking of new ways to use the technology. HelloTel CEO Marc Preston told accomnews how accommodation providers could use iBeacons to their advantage, “The setup process is actually not hard at all.

“The iBeacons will come pre-programmed and triangulated based on the business or hotel’s need. From there they would remove the very sticky cover from the adhesive back of the iBeacon and place it in the area they would like to collect information and send push notifications.

“For instance, if the hotel’s restaurant wanted to send guests a push notification when they walked within 10m of the establishment, they would setup an iBeacon outside the restaurant at the proper distance.

“Then they would have us place the message they would like users to get when they walk by and a ‘custom mobile HTML landing page’. The push notification would come via our HelloTel App, informing the recipient they can ‘get a 10 per cent discount on their meal by booking a reservation now’, for example.

“Guests would open the notification, which would automatically open a custom landing page with the restaurant’s name, logos, imagery and ad copy about making a reservation. Since these pages are mobile-friendly/HTML, we can place anything they want there – featuring things like their menu, reservation booking software for a table, etc.

“The technology is still currently in beta testing but has a wide variety of potential uses.”

As well as for identification purposes and door locking, Mr Preston added that iBeacons could be used for security purposes. “If a back door is ajar, the hotel security could get a push notification. That is one of the simple uses but there are a lot more complex ways to approach the technology.

iBeacons themselves were originally an Apple-branded product; however, the company has given Android permission to develop on the same platform. This means the devices themselves are compatible with all smartphones. However, the push notifications can only be set up for use through a particular mobile app. This restricts the number of people who will interact with your iBeacons to those who have downloaded your app.

“There is a direct correlation between what types of data iBeacons use and what kind of data the app is collecting via its registration,” Mr Preston said. “For instance, since we are using social sign-in for users to create accounts on HelloTel we can trigger the iBeacons. These are silent triggers that can build a vast amount of data for the hotels while keeping personally identifiable information about the user private.”

HelloTel is not the only app developing this technology as a variety of apps have been designed by hotel chains in the US to utilise iBeacon capabilities, such as Marriott and The James hotels.

However third-party apps like this one and other called Mahana offer smaller accommodation providers the opportunity to do something similar and this points to iBeacon technology becoming industry standard at some point in the future.


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