iBeacons: Coming soon to a baseball stadium near you

MLB and Apple are testing iBeacons in major league baseball stadiums to increase loyalty and add a new level of interactivity to the live baseball experience.

Coming to a baseball stadium near you: iBeacons - Jason O'Grady

Last month I wrote about the National Football League's plan to roll out Wi-Fi in all of its 31 stadiums, and how well it worked at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. 

Turns out Major League Baseball (MLB) is no slouch, either. Not content to sit on the sidelines (sorry) MLB is also adding new technology to its stadiums: Bluetooth low-energy transmitters called iBeacons. MLB has been working with Apple since February to install the devices in stadiums across the U.S. in an effort to increase fan engagement. 

While GPS is useful for navigating to major destinations, it's not well-suited for stadiums. MLB iOS developer Marc Abramson told Mashable:

"We've been looking at customizing the [At the Ballpark] app based on where you are within the stadium, but GPS is notorious for not working indoors, especially when you are in a building made of steel." He added: "Instead, we are incorporating Apple's new Bluetooth and iBeacon technologies for iOS 7 and couldn't be more excited about the potential."

"Essentially, we want to create micro-locations within the stadiums where you can get different experiences," Abramson said.

Small Bluetooth 4 devices are being installed at various locations in and around MLB stadiums and when an iPhone user running iOS 7 and MLB At the Ballpark app (free, App Store) walks by, their iPhone detects the iBeacon and a push notification is displayed on-screen.

Notifications can include automatic check-ins, video snippets, ticket availability, coupons and special offers.

The At the Ballpark app offers coupons and incentives via iBeacons - Jason O'Grady

According to Mashable, iBeacons can be used to display your ticket barcode on screen as you approach the gate, then they can display a map of your seat location with directions on how to get there. If the user stored their tickets in Apple's Passbook app (or if they were purchased online from a participating ticketing partners) the tickets will automatically be loaded into Passbook and presented at just the right time. 

Other features of the At the Ballpark app include:

  • Check in for ballpark offers and rewards
  • Interactive concourse maps and directory
  • Social media integration
  • Customize to feature a designated favorite MLB ballpark
  • Team schedule, ticket information and sales and promotional event listings
  • Access to food and beverage ordering available at select parks
  • Directions and parking information
  • A to Z Guides for every ballpark
  • My Journal: Personalized check-in history for ballparks visited

Estimote is currently marketing iBeacons that work with the iPhone that you can pre-order (three for $99) and the price is expected to plummet as manufacturing and adoption ramps up. Retailers are lining up to install iBeacons is there stores in hopes of adding a new dimension to the retail experience and ultimately, increasing loyalty and sales.

Estimote is a startup selling iPhone-compatible iBeacons for only $33/each in quantity - Jason O'Grady

Several teams are testing iBeacons in their ballparks, including the New York Mets' Citi Field in Queens, NY, but the devices aren't expected to be rolled-out publicly until the 2014 season. 

CNET test drove the iBeacons at Citi Field in San Francisco. Check out their gallery: Welcome to Citi Field.