Apple’s New iBeacon Technology – and How Churches Could Use It

mlb_at_the_ballparkLate last week, Major League Baseball completed its installation of Apple’s iBeacon technology in the first two of twenty stadiums for use on Opening Day.

If you don’t know what Apple’s iBeacon technology is, don’t worry – it’s been one of the most obscure features of iOS7. Here’s what Apple says about it in a note to developers:

iBeacon, a new class of low-powered, low-cost transmitters that can notify nearby iOS 7 devices of their presence, provides apps a whole new level of location awareness, such as trail markers in a park, exhibits in a museum, or product displays in stores.

Yep, that’s confusing tech talk.

Here’s a better way to explain it: iBeacon transmitters are tiny computers that act as radio stations to your device. Just like in your car, you can only pick up the transmissions if you are in range of the station. The difference here is what’s being broadcasted – in radio, it’s music and news; in iBeacons, it’s push notifications (like those you get from your favorite app on your lock screen).

Imagine: You are shopping and and as you walk by a store, a notification appears on your device alerting you to a sale inside. You’re curious, so you walk in. As you’re browsing, another notification appears alerting you that the jeans you’re near are on sale for half off today. While you’re checking out, another notification offers a discount for signing up for promotional emails.

That’s iBeacon.

And it’s coming sooner than you think.

So, how could churches possibly use iBeacon technology?

  • Walking into the worship center, a notification greets you and tells you what today’s sermon topic will be and where to turn in your Bible.
  • Entering the children’s area, you are offered a quick way to check in your child, avoiding the line and the wait.
  • Dropping your teen off in the student ministry, the notification could offer an outline of what is taught and discussion questions for home.
  • Leaving the building, a notification reminds you of the main point for today and one way you can immediately apply it in your life.

iBeacon technology could be used to easily transmit information to people in specific locations in our churches. It could be more effective than anything else we are using in our churches right now.

But, there are some negatives:

  • iOS7 devices are the only gadgets that can officially use iBeacons. Yep, iBeacon is a no-go for Android. (But, there may be a workaround.)
  • It seems that you have to have an app installed on the device to take advantage of iBeacons. (However, some say you don’t need one.) Does your church have the budget for an app? Yea, neither does mine.
  • This tech is very, very new. It’s only for the brave pioneers right now.

All this being said, I’m excited about iBeacons. As I learn more about (and hopefully experiment with) iBeacons, I’ll keep you posted.

How could you see this tech used in churches? Let me know below…

One thought

  1. I could see this as a way to pay your tithes or offerings. it can also provide a last minute reminder of what’s coming up as you leave. the app could also have this week’s bulletin.

    but i think the kids pager system/check-in would be an excellent use of this.

    Like

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