With its Bluetooth-based iBeacons turned on in all its U.S. stores, Apple is both attempting to improve customer experience and demonstrate its new location-based notification service. While retail is a natural fit for iBeacons, the teachnology has potential well beyond the store or mall. Here are ten other industries and spaces where iBeacons could deliver killer value.
The office is dying - get ready for Bring Your Own Workplace (BYOW)
Yahoo's ban on working from home put the spotlight on flexible work arrangements and the growing trend of employees working remotely, often thanks to mobile technologies and cloud services. The terms "telework" or "remote work" may conjure up thoughts of people working at home or in the local Starbucks, or the image of business travelers turning airport waiting areas, planes, and hotel rooms into on-the-road office replacements.
While there's definitely some truth to these images (I'm writing this at home and my CITEworld colleague Chris Nerney and I have been known to work a particular upstate New York coffee shop), they represent just a fraction of the flexible and remote work options that are becoming common for today's workforce.
The fact is that flexible work environments -- corporate office space, shared office rentals, temporary workspaces, and coworking spaces/communities -- are changing the definitions of remote work, freelancing, networking, and even 21st century entrepreneurship.
The corporate branch office
Corporate office space is often an option for many traveling professionals and executives. When a company has multiple offices, there is often some space that goes unused. Regardless of whether it's a single vacant desk, a conference room, or an executive office, corporate office space comes with a big advantage for employees on the move -- access to their corporate network and standard office features.
This almost always means a reliable network connection inside the firewall, which can let people access corporate resources -- like intranets, SharePoint and other collaborative tools, file shares, and network printers -- without for VPNs or other remote connectivity solutions or unreliable mobile connections. It also means access to things like faxes, copiers, office supplies, and even administrative staff and on-site technical support.
Sharing remote office space is a great option for traveling employees, but it has some challenges. One is that companies tend to station employees of a department or division together. So a traveling marketing person may find office space halfway across the country -- but it might be devoted to manufacturing or customer service operations. That could mean their office doesn't have some of the tools you need.
In some cases, employees may find themselves working in a remote office quite regularly or even indefinitely -- like when relocation isn't an option. Situations like that can sometimes give employees the worst of both worls -- you're isolated from the team or department as much as if you were working from home, but you still need to trek into the office every day. The isolation can even feel particularly intense if the employees at the remote site have no connection to your job.
This appears to be the tactic that Yahoo is using when it comes to corralling its remote workforce back into Yahoo offices. It remains to be seen how well that ultimately works out for administrators and employee satisfaction.
Leasing shared space long-term
Whether you work in large company, you're a freelancer, or you're working to launch a startup, you can find office space to rent.
In the most traditional sense a company -- big or small -- rents a single office or a block of offices as needed. That company pays the rent and utility bills, provides telephone and Internet services, and is essentially responsible for the office and everything in it.
Another option, particularly common in smaller businesses or for freelancers wanting to work away from the house, is to band together with other companies. This co-op like solution means that there are joint or shared resources -- phone, Internet, reception staff, supplies -- often managed by an individual or a committee. This approach can work well for smaller business using the space as a central office and for remote workers that cannot relocate to a central office of a larger company because personal or business needs.
In any case, there's often excellent networking potential if everyone sharing the space are in the same profession or related fields -- but there can also be culture shock and isolation when they aren't. As with remote corporate spaces, there can also be challenges to ensuring the remote staff at a shared space feel like part of their parent company.
Renting workspace as you need it
For many workers on the road, some small companies, and freelancers, a permanent and full time base of operations isn't necessary. If you're launching a product or service in a community, you may only need space to work for a few days or weeks.
BlackBerry has a lot of hurdles to cross to stage a comeback but one in particular might be especially tough to overcome: the operators. My experience getting started with the Z10 shows AT&T, at least, doesn't seem to find the Z10 a priority.