iBeacon app development

Tips to Prepare for Dealing with iBeacon App Development Challenges

Over the years, technology has become a vital part of every aspect of business, including marketing. With rising use of smartphones, use of technology amongst relevant online traffic. For this purpose, there’s a ready solution – the iBeacon.

However, there are certain things to know about iBeacon before you begin:

  • iBeacons are a better choice than Beacons. While Beacons broadcast unique identifier umbers, Apple supports iBeacons by recognizing those numbers and knowing the range.
  • Make all features really compelling so that users turn on their Bluetooth devices and location service. You have only one change to ask for user permission. So, be wise.
  • iBeacon comes with a battery efficient monitoring feature, though the tech media begs to differ. Ensure that the app clearly indicates battery efficiency and even encourages them to keep the Bluetooth feature turned on.
  • Protect user information and data. Beacon regions are counted as location.
  • Bluetooth beacons are generally radios, often messy and time-consuming. Test the signals and calibrate to make sure you get the best signal.

While the aforementioned points are only a few challenges developers and users might face in beacon-enabling apps, there are more to it. Even the most experienced iOS developers are encountering challenges with iBeacon because of its unique traits and features.

1. Choice of Features
Beacon technology is unique; it allows the app to approximate the physical distance to the broadcasting beacon. In case if the beacon is at its known location, you can possibly get a fair idea as to where the user is located within a certain radius. Beacons can even be tied to other devices or fixtures like train car, balloon, stadium etc. If the app recognizes the user, it can map the user and its beacon. With backend coordination for mapping, you can even link information related to the beacon, its user, the real world context, and aggravate specific context to user – a precise time, location, and app context.

So, during iBeacon app development, you have to carefully weigh the elements that can possibly enhance user experience, though not overwhelming. Likewise, you must consider factors that can protect user privacy without crippling an app in case if the beacon is not within range.

2. The Challenging Permission Matrix
Another major challenge of using iBeacons is its permission matrix – the user must grant location permissions to use this feature. In addition, the app should be aware that only a few devices support beacons and the Bluetooth feature has to be turned on. This clearly indicates that there are different states of the app to be checked before beacons can be used successfully.

In certain cases, it is best to wait and watch until the last moment to ask for permissions, rather than blasting users even before they have tried the app. Likewise, it is equally important to offer information to users proactively to explain the value of privacy and how data is secured.

3. Issues with Hardware and Signals
Many apps have been developed as closed and well-behaved systems. But when beacons are concerned, you must be prepared to deal with external signals and radios. Luckily, the iOS SDK deals with some of the intricacies involved in detecting signals, error correction, decoding and much more. In addition, the Bluetooth LE, or Low-Energy, spectrum lies in the same spectrum band as the Wi-Fi interface, which can hinder the signal.

The signal quality may vary wildly among different iBeacon hardware manufacturers. In fact, beacon signals are often affected by device power, temperature, polling intervals that often vary according to broadcasts. Precisely, signal accuracy varies and that indicates that the app should be designed to make choices depending on the type and variable information that has been received.

4. Triangulation and Tracking
Between iBeacon and any app, there cannot be a two-way communication as there is only one-way radio. They do not recognize client devices that receive their broadcasts. There are mainly two ways to this. Firstly, only an advanced iBeacon can theoretically open a new, or second, channel for communication with mobile devices and transmit the same data back to the server using constant network connection. Nonetheless, this functionality isn’t a part of the specification of iBeacon and it would surely drain the battery of your device significantly.

So, the other easier way to go about is to it fake it by allowing the app to work it out. The app can be connected to a backend, and it can update any record to register the real-time presence of the user and personalize the app and/or real world experiences.

5. Server Piece
Considering all the range of variables encountered by the iBeacon app, it is important to have business logic scripts. For instance, the app should be able to collect data related to beacons like UUID, both major as well as minor numbers, and location on the floor plan.

As soon as the app encounters any beacon, it would access the business logic script and get a complete list of all the users at that beacon. The script gives filtered data for privacy and even attempts to interpret what it means; this can be tricky considering that updates at any event may or may not be recorded in the real-time. In some case, the device might simply drop out of the range of a beacon.

There is a solution to this – developers can use time-based heuristics for guessing if users are still present. They can also use other business logic scripts to observe trends, for statistical analysis, and to draw conclusions.

6. Navigating the App Store
Navigating the app store is the final challenge one has to face. The process is a learning experience and here’s a crux:

  • It is imperative to clearly explain what a particular app is supposed to do, or doing, both in public description and in review notes.
  • Show a demo video and explain app functions.
  • Provide demo account and beacon UUIDs in review notes.
  • Include battery disclaimer in the end of the description.

A Concluding Note
Building a specific ibeacon app is definitely quite different from developing any other app. Using pre-built tools as well as client library extensions is the best way to overcome challenges and expedite the process of development. Using beacons requires you to manage permissions and user expectations, coding well against unpredictable hardware collections, and provide a means to link a beacon identifier with a useful element in the application.

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