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Is iBeacon Technology a Game Changer for Learning and Development

President Of TrainSmart, Inc.

Not so long ago, QR codes were the darlings of everyone from retailers to educators. They held the promise increasing interaction by linking objects in our physical word to information in our digital world.

Proponents encouraged users to place a QR code strategically on any kind of print material – think business cards, job aids, or student guides. Advocates of QR codes promised increased interaction with key target audiences.

For learning and development, the vision was that participants in a training or workshop, would just have to put their free QR Code reader over the icon, and it would deliver additional information with multi-media support.

QR Codes are now about ten years old, and they just haven’t lived up to their promise. In part, it can be blamed on the clunkiness of the technology and the increased reliance on mobile technology. All too often when someone scans a QR code, they are scanning on their smart phone, and a QR code takes them to a non-mobile optimized site.
In short, the experience doesn’t outweigh the effort.

And yet, the concept of clicking on an icon for additional resources is so darn appealing.

Enter the iBeacon. As the little “i” implies, iBeacon is a technology created by Apple. iBeacons are small transmitters that enable a device to learn what is nearby. It uses Bluetooth low-energy wireless technology to provide location-based information to iPhones, other IOS devices, and android Apps.

Still in its infancy, Apple is testing the device in its retail stores. It does what the QR code does and plus a lot more. Unlike a QR code, an iBeacon doesn’t require any work from the person targeted to receive the information (providing they have previously downloaded the appropriate App)

Here’s how it works. You own an iPhone and have the Apple Store App on your phone. You’ve also enabled “In-store” push notifications (that’s important. iBeacons only transmit to people who have opted-in to the service).

When you walk into an Apple store that has an iBeacon, it can notify you when it’s your turn at the Genius Bar, or other specials that are available that day.

Museums are using iBeacons to enhance self-guided tours. Airports are using beacons to help passengers navigate to their gates.

For learning and development, iBeacons are currently being tested in conferences to help event planners notify participants of available sessions, track attendees, and provide additional information on presentations.

How do you see iBeacons enhancing an supporting Learning and Development? Museums are using iBeacons to enhance self-guided tours. Airports are using beacons to help passengers navigate to their gates.