Beacons and the Future of Search

We are inching ever closer to the day when we walk down the street and highly personalized and specific messages and information are served up to our wearable device or some other public information technology. Google and Apple have both begun investing and testing what is being called the physical web. We have seen this idea in movies like Total Recall and The Minority Report. Scary or exciting depends on your perspective.

Much of the technology that makes this concept possible already exists. One small part of the process is the use of beacons. Beacons use low energy technology that make it possible for a physical device, such as a vending machine, or store mannequin to be detected by a smartphone. The technology has been around for many years, but gained notoriety and interest when Apple introduced iBeacon last year. Beacons make it possible to determine a person’s location within a few feet, making hyper-local advertising and mapping possible.

What’s the big deal? Well imagine a skier needs new ski goggles. They are walking down the street in Breckenridge, Colorado and see a mannequin in a store window wearing a pair of ski goggles. This mannequin is equipped with a beacon. Now the skier is able to see specific information about the ski goggles that the mannequin is wearing and buy a pair without having to enter the store. But what if the skier wants to try the goggles on for fit? When they walk into the store, the shopper can pull up a map (no app required) that will quickly direct them to the exact pair of goggles they are looking for within the store.   This is already happening in the UK and some places in the US.

Google’s Sergey Brin famously said, “My vision when we started Google 15 years ago was that eventually you wouldn’t have to have a search query at all – the information would just come to you as you needed it.” Beacons are helping his vision move closer to reality.

The message to SEO is that the migration to mobile will continue and that hyper-localization is the present and the future. How information for the physical web is indexed and prioritized will likely mirror the algorithms of the World Wide Web, but how you determine who show up first is yet to be established.  Stay up with the latest trends with our blog.