Why Engage a Technology Partner
A true technology partner provides many benefits that a technology vendor cannot provide. A vendor might sell you a piece of hardware or software, but a technology partner will make sure that it is the best solution for your specific situation. A vendor can sell you an off-the-shelf solution, but a technology partner can offer a customized solution. A vendor can offer you what is currently available, but a technology partner stays current on new products and new methodologies that could potentially affect your long-term satisfaction with your decision.
Choosing an iBeacon Manufacturer: A Case Study
Because it is difficult to describe the various ways that a tech partner can help you, it is more beneficial to take you through the process followed when a client recently decided to install iBeacons.
The Options – Gelo and Gimbal
The client initially felt that the beacons manufactured by Gelo met the basic requirements, so we carefully evaluated the available options – the Gelo beacon and Gimbal beacon.
- The Gelo beacon did meet the basic requirements and expectations. However, the out-of-the-box universally unique identifier, or UUID, configuration had some issues that would require reconfiguration to meet expectations. As the UUID identifies each specific entity or object connected to the Internet, we felt that the reconfiguration was vital.
- The Gimbal beacon offered by Qualcomm offered some significant advantages over the Gelo beacon. As Qualcomm is one of the "big players" in the communications technology industry, the support and backing were major considerations. Furthermore, the Gimbal beacon included a built-in CMS and a mobile app for beacon ID management. (The Gelo beacon required cleaning the configuration with a magnet and then using their app, which is not offered in the app store, to set the beacon IDs.) The Gimbal beacon also included an analytics platform.
Requirements Analysis – Vendor Capabilities and Gaps
Regardless of beacon manufacturer, it would be necessary to create an app to provide the functionality required by the client.
- We could use the generic iBeacon Cordova plug-in. We verified that for iOS 7 and above, once the app was registered, it would prompt users whenever they were within the range of a beacon even if the app were not running. If the app were running in the background, it would bring it to the foreground. We could achieve equivalent functionality for Android.
- The PhoneGap framework enabled us to develop an app for the Gelo beacons using an open-source iBeacon plug-in. However, we discovered that the Gelo PhoneGap plug-in only runs on iOS, which was an issue as Android compatibility was also needed. The third-party open-source plug-in for PhoneGap had stability issues in iOS, despite assertions that it was compatible with both Android and iOS.
- Gimbal required the use of their native software developer's kit, or SDK, for creating apps for Android and iOS.
The Recommended Approach – Our Solution
After carefully comparing all of the client's needs to available technology, we recommended choosing the Gimbal beacons for the base system. We used a hybrid model for developing the app. Geofencing and proximity sensing were built using the native layer, while PhoneGap supplied the balance.
Without a true technology partner, the client would have chosen the wrong beacon for his particular needs. Although both the Gelo and Gimbal beacons are excellent, when the complete list of the client's requirements was evaluated, the Gimbal beacon proved to be the most suitable for this client. However, depending on the client, the Gelo beacon might be preferable for the next iBeacon project. That is what a technology partner does — determine the best solution to provide all clients with the technology they need and with which they will be most satisfied over time.