Beacons connect the digital, real world experience for boaters

For boaters, there can be big disconnect between surfing the Internet to research at home, and the real world experience of dealerships and marinas where paper brochures and window displays are often the predominant way to share information.

This is where Beacon technology comes to the rescue. If you’re not familiar with beacons, or don’t know many details, I included them in my 2016 trends to watch article.

Beacons are proximity awareness devices that send users targeted messages to a connected mobile app over Bluetooth when they are close to a specific location. The technology has been around for a couple of years but is now starting to gain traction. Apple introduced the iBeacon standard in 2013 and last year Google launched their Eddystone standard. In addition, there are several manufacturers making the beacon devices.

The retail industry has been leading the way with this technology with beacons placed around the store that notify shoppers about product discounts and promotions as they walk past. But other industries are jumping in. Airlines are using beacons to transmit flight and gate updates to customers through the airline’s app. Ford is doing a pilot with beacons to highlight car features and AutoTrader is starting a program to place beacons at dealerships.

What gets me excited about this technology is the opportunity it provides boat businesses to provide pertinent information at the most essential time. This overcomes the current limitations of mobile notifications and QR codes by adding location awareness so you get information at the right time and right place without customers having to do anything at all.

Some examples in the marine industry that come to mind include:

  • Boat shows – Alerting visitors as they walk past with floor maps, information, specs, test rides or promotions and prizes. This enables customers to easily follow up, but also gives show organizers much more information on visitor patterns and interests.
  • In-store – Provide prospective customers with information on the boat, financing or watch a video of boat in action as they walk around your dealership. If connected with the OEM apps or marketplace apps such as YachtWorld, a local beacon could notify the user of the listing in the app with full specs.
  • Marinas – Provide relevant information or news to people as they enter a marina, open up locked dock entrances, or provide latest tide or weather information, especially if combined into mobile navigation apps such as Garmin or Navionics.

But like the adoption of any new technology, it is not without its challenges. The primary ones include that companies have to build apps that use beacon and users need to have an app installed that works with the beacons, and have Bluetooth turned on (which can increase mobile battery drain and as a result is lowering adoption). Luckily the technology is becoming more standardized and mobile solutions companies are building experience with implementation.

Will this be adopted? The odds are yes. With companies like Apple and Google investing in this space, I can see it bringing the mobile and dealership experience closer together and helping businesses engage with customers in a much more targeted way.

Tim Claxton is a freelance consultant, and periodically writes articles on boating, digital media and new technologies. He can be reached at



  1. Some great points. As a “beacosystem” specialist and a boating dunce, its great to see some new applications in Boating, for a technology that is becoming pervasive in other realms.

    As you mention, Google has been investing heavily and last week announced a raft of enhancements to Bluetooth beacons. Their standard (named after the Eddystone lighthouse) includes a beacon that broadcasts a URL, so that you don’t need a special application, just the Chrome browser to see content that relates to the location you are near. For those traveling to foreign location this could include notices in different languages.

  2. Thanks Steve. This is a great addition. I agree, It opens up the opportunity for businesses to integrate with Beacons from their websites with a Google Widget, not just a home grown app. I’m looking forward to seeing a positive response to this technology.

  3. Great article, and excellent examples of use cases!

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