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Will Beacons Fulfill the Promise of NFC?

Tech pundits have long claimed that NFC (near-field communication) will be a game changer, and for years, the industry has been looking to bridge the gap

Concepts and use cases for NFC are easy to dream up -- frictionless airport-check-in. Gas up & go at the gas pump. But tangible technology headlines like RFID, QR codes, and even geofencing fall short of the promise.

We've done a lot of work in the retail space over the past year, analyzing the cross-channel experience of preparing to shop and shopping. And it's an exciting time, as the retail industry is abuzz with the newest (and by far, the most promising) NFC technology - beacons.

Beacons are low-power wireless transmitters use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to provide very precise location data to apps that know what to look for, empowering unprecedented levels of location-based personalization. 

And Apple's investment in beacon technology guarantees a flurry of developer adoption.

In fact, in a recent Washington Post interview entitled The Rise of iBeacons and the Fall of Friction, Estimote CEO Jakub Krzych said he expects that the economic impact of iBeacon technology to be in the trillions.

Cutting-edge experiments in places like Dodger Stadium and Austin's own Tarrytown Pharmacy are leading the way, but the entire retail industry will certainly follow suit - and soon.

Don't be surprised if some of the initial implementations you encounter feel a bit heavy-handed. As with any new technology, marketers and merchandisers will take a while to learn the best applications of this newfound power.

If you're curious about iBeacon technology and what it actually enables, this series from the R/GA Tech Blog is a great primer.