Have you ever been in a store and marched around for a while trying to find some obscure item? What about missing out on a cracking deal on your favorite beer as you didn’t walk down the drinks aisle? These problems will soon be a thing of the past - with iBeacons, in-store wifi, and other technologies, location tracking it is now possible for mobile apps to pin point your location in a store. These apps can also show you offers that are of interest to you when you reach that area of the store. This is the latest task set by Rockpool's R&D academy.

How great would it be to have your shopping list app point to where all the items are in the store? It would mean you could grab everything you need in one efficient sweep, and running back and forth along the aisles would be a thing of the past. IBeacons release by Apple in 2013 make it possible to track a device's location in a room which contains a number of iBeacons. Alas, this is not as easy as it seems.

By using the strength of the signal from each beacon, it is possible to estimate the location of the device relative to the iBeacons. This method, however, has its drawbacks. To get the most accurate signal, you would need to do it in an empty room while the devise is still - not how most people shop! The typical shopping experience is a busy store, with lots of people and products to interfere with the signal. The mobile device will also be moving, especially if it is in the hand of its owner, meaning that the location calculated by the mobile devise will need to be considered as “indicative”. 

Another issue is that a phone app cannot track the precise location of a user int the background - instead, the user has to have the app open to track the location accurately. You can only use a background service to monitor when you come into contact with a certain group of iBeacons. This means that if you want to 'accurately' track a device using iBeacons the app has to be opened at some point to trigger this more accurate tracking.

And as an Apple technology, iBeacons are more geared towards to Apple devices, with some extra considerations for other smartphones.

For our prototype we are working on creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that will send a push notification when a certain type of iBeacon is detected - that notification will notify the user of nearby offers or information, prompting him to open our app. Once the app is open, we can get into the juicy stuff of tracking the devices location as it moves through the store. 

Once we have the MVP working, it will be about layering on useful functions for the customer and collecting lots of information for the store. We can offer the user relevant deals as they walk past areas of the shop, the store will be able to see how people move through the aisles and also link online analytics up to these in-store analytics. This will create a full view of a customers shopping habits for that brand, and we will also be able to track a users' interaction with a brand from initially researching a product on the website to purchasing it in store. 

We’d love to take this beyond the MVP and incorporate some other location technologies, but let’s see where we get with the time we have in this R&D cycle first! 

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