1st and Tech: iBeacon
Welcome to the second edition of 1st and Tech. With the football season in the rear view, we're going to shift our focus to Major League Baseball, more specifically the recent announcement that MLB will outfitting Apple's iBeacons at 20 of their ballparks by opening day. Ok so let's stop right there and get to...
What is an iBeacon?
An iBeacon is a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transmitter device developed by Apple whose main purpose is to communicate with nearby iOS 7 devices. (They are also compatible with Android devices.) Apple has installed iBeacons in all of its retail stores, with the intent of sending people in the stores messages containing product info, possible sales, and also act as a point of sale checkout. While in the store however, the user must be running Apple's "Apple Store" app. Many other retailers are adopting iBeacons in their stores as a new way to communicate with customers.
How is Major League Baseball getting involved?
MLB has announced that iBeacons will be installed in 20 of their parks by opening day and will work in conjunction with the At the Ballpark app, which already has extensive functionality including digital tickets. MLB has said that the individual teams will have the ability to decide what the iBeacons actually do or offer to fans. One would have to imagine they will take this opportunity to alert fans to sales or special events going on near them at the ballpark. While we don't specifically know how the iBeacons will be utilized yet, it's easy to see that the possibilities are endless, and that this is really the next step in revolutionizing the fan experience.
I just want to go and watch a game, is this really necessary?
For a lot (most) of people out there, the iBeacon technology is something that really won't affect them. Most probably won't even know it exists right off the bat. The thing to remember for people who feel like they're being bombarded by unwanted technology and notifications is that you have to be running the At the Ballpark app. If you don't want the notifications, just keep the app off your phone (or turn off notifications). Either way, this is the direction our world is going in. With TV's and home technology getting better and better, MLB and the other major sports face the problem of getting fans in the ballpark. Why would someone want to go pay for overpriced food, parking, traffic, etc. when they can sit on their couch for free and see the game perfectly? This is why technologies like iBeacon are being implemented. It may not be a big enough reason to get people to come to the ballpark, but it will certainly enhance the overall experience, and perhaps make people want to come back. It will truly be interesting to see how MLB teams choose to utilize the iBeacons, but from where I sit, it certainly seems like a game changer.
Eric Cooper is a MLB, NFL and Tech writer for TJRSports. When not watching or writing about sports, he enjoys spending time with his wife, son and dog. He also has zero interest in the winter olympics, so don't expect any commentary on that. You can follow him on Twitter @Eric_TJRSports.