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Simplifying Beacons and the Physical Web
This is the fourth in a series of articles designed to help you understand and participate in the Physical Web. If you can't wait, you may want to download our free eBook, "Navigating the Physical Web" for the entire story.
If you're all excited and ready to get on the Physical Web, all you need is a beacon and some content. The easiest way to accomplish this is to use a resource like PHY111.COM where you can easily create and edit your content and a beacon is sent to you already programmed with your content on it.
Should you wish to attack this yourself, here are a few things to consider.
Several manufacturers make beacons in a variety of designs. You can find them online and Google currently has a list of manufacturers in their beacon developer portal, but the main differences are as follows:
Beacon Cost - Expect to pay $10 to $30 for a beacon unless you need weatherproofing or other enhancements that might add some cost. Be sure to determine whether your manufacturer requires an ongoing subscription in addition to the initial purchase.
Beacon Size - Beacons range from small key fob designs to something the size of a deck of cards. Batteries range from coin batteries like the CR2032 to size AA batteries. Be sure you get a beacon that uses readily available batteries.
Beacon Battery Life - Battery life can be as little as two weeks or as much as 3-4 years depending on the beacon and the settings that are programmed into it. Some beacons don't allow you to change settings that effect battery life, so you have to be careful.
Optional Beacon Services - Many manufacturers have portals that may be necessary to program your beacon or that may provide extra services you may find useful including statistics, extra security, content scheduling and so on. Generally, extra services require a monthly subscription fee.
Ease of Beacon Programming - Programming your content onto a beacon can be fairly straightforward or quite difficult depending on the manufacturer. One beacon we tested required 17 steps to program it. The manufacturers seldom explain this up front, so buying a beacon can often be a leap of faith; you will find out once you receive your beacon and get started.
It's important to determine the answer to these questions prior to selecting a beacon in order to be sure your beacon purchase serves your needs. What starts out as an exciting high-tech adventure can end up as an exercise in frustration, so take a deep breath, stay calm and nobody will get hurt!
Any web content can be programmed on a beacon, but content that is valuable to walking traffic is your goal. Think about what you'd like to communicate to people when they stop by. You might deliver information or ask for input. A personal visitor is a completely different target than a website visitor, so be deliberate with your approach. Just as you would on the web, be sure you are delivering value to your visitors.
Another consideration is managing your beacon content. Services like PHY111.COM allow you to create, edit and update your content at a moment's notice. You probably won't be satisfied if you have to contact a web developer every time you want to make a change to the content on your beacon. Some services allow you to create several content pages for different times of day or different days of the week. You can then program your beacon to change what content is seen by visitors on a predetermined schedule. Services like this typically require a monthly fee.
If all this sounds like more than you want to deal with, visit PHY111.COM or call us at 877.397.7605 and we will make it clear and simple for you. We will help you create your beacon content and deliver a beacon to you with your content already programmed on it. All you have to do is place your Physical Web Beacon wherever you want to engage customers and grow your business.