When beacons were first released, we saw a huge potential in the technology for driving new types of user experience. While much of the focus has been on the possibilities of delivering offers and coupons using the technology, we felt that this was merely scratching at the surface.

We established a six month research and development project where we assessed different types of beacons and tested what was possible. This led us to choosing to optimise our own beacons, that we have worked with a manufacturer to produce. Since the launch of our MiBeacons division in February, the enterprise market has been our main focus.

We saw beacons as key to helping to connect physical objects with digital devices. All of this cements the role that apps play in our daily work and personal lives to bring us what we need, when we need it, based on how close we are to objects.

When Microsoft first approached us to find out more about our activity with beacons, we believed there was great symbiosis with how we envisaged beacons being used. The project, Cities Unlocked, not only demonstrates that beacons work with Windows Phone, but that they can be used to help people move around and explore the world around them.

Our involvement has focused on supplying our MiBeacons to Microsoft for the project, but we hope to be able to extend the relationship further as the initiative continues.

Being able to be involved in a project that helps blind people navigate around and inside urban areas has been inspiring to see. We’re proud to be associated with Guide Dogs, Future Cities Catapult, Microsoft, Barclays Bank, First Great Western, Network Rail, Reading Borough Council, Reading Buses and Tesco.

Cities Unlocked provides a truly user centric experience by utilising multiple location-aware technologies and bone-conducting audio technology, to create a 3D sound map of surroundings.

Looking to the future, it’s easy to imagine that this could also be used for leisure and tourism. With beacons placed around cities, apps can trigger the right information, in the right language for people visiting cities for the first time. This helps to reduce some of the stress that can come with being in a big city, by providing essential information.

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