Making an iBeacon App

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First things first

Beacon technology provides location data much like GPS. But beacons are not a replacement for GPS technology. While the actual workings of the two technologies vary drastically, the end result is similar. The main selling point of beacons is their ability to provide a user’s location at a more granular level and in areas that GPS can’t reach. iBeacon apps actually benefit greatly from integrating GPS functionality, more on that later.
I recently finished working on “The Manifest Experience”, an iBeacon app for the digital agency I work at. The app’s purpose centers around welcoming guests to our office. It also gives them access to location specific details about our space. We built the app as a way to explore the technology and become more familiar with it’s strengths and weaknesses. During the development process I was able to freely experiment with iBeacons. We experimented with new ways to utilize the technology and ended up providing a pretty unique end-user experience. You can find the app on the AppStore here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/manifest-experience-st.-louis/id929868569?mt=8

NOTE: I’m linking to provide additional context, no need to download it. The app isn’t useful to people that aren’t around our STL office.

Quick Look into The Manifest Experience

After downloading the app, the user enters some basic information, setting up a small profile of sorts. When a user walks into the office, the app detects the iBeacon at the entrance. The app then sends the users name and photo up to a web service. That web service backs a webpage displayed on a large video screen in the office. When the web service updates, the webpage displays a personalized welcome screen to the user. The welcome feature is most obvious use of iBeacon technology in the app, but not the only use. The app segments descriptions and pictures of each space into rooms. Each room section is initially locked until the app encounters the corresponding iBeacon for the first time. The app also allows users to post short messages straight up to the video wall while they are in the space. Effectively turning the office’s video screen into a sort of personal internal-office Twitter feed. I ran into quite a few hurdles during the development of the app. This technology is still relatively new. It can be difficult to find answers online to problems encountered during development. I’ve decided to share some of the learnings that came out of the whole process.
There’s quite a bit to read so I broke the information into more digest-able sections. You can find links to my other Medium articles below that delve deeper into certain processes behind the app.