When Apple added support for iBeacons — small, lower-power Bluetooth LE transmitters that offer a host of location-based services — into iOS 7, Major League Baseball was one of the first companies to show the new feature's potential. Now a source familiar with the matter has confirmed MLB will be installing and using thousands of iBeacons in some of its teams' ballparks by the end of March.
MacRumors says 20 of the 30 teams in the league — including the Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, LA Dodgers, and San Francisco Giants — will have their stadiums outfitted with around 100 beacons in March. The iBeacons, which have already been deployed in clothing and grocery retailers, in addition to Apple's own stores, will connect with MLB's iOS At The Ballpark app. The functionality they provide will reportedly vary by ballpark, but the technology allows for the transmitters to provide "point of interest information, concessions, shopping, and loyalty and rewards programs," in addition to mapping services to guide people around large stadiums.
iBeacon functionality will vary by ballpark
MLB has already shown how such an arrangement could work. During a press demonstration of ballpark iBeacon technology last September at the New York Mets' Citi Field, an iPhone was used to keep track of iBeacons dotted around the park that would enable the At The Ballpark app to play specific videos or offer coupons. The technology can also monitor how many times a fan has visited a specific location, allowing retailers to offer frequent-shopper discounts.
But despite the "significant revenue opportunity" iBeacons offer, MacRumors says MLB is introducing the technology to improve the fan experience. The precise mapping capabilities of the Bluetooth transmitters mean fans can be directed to their seats quickly and easily, and people who visit regularly can be directed to collect rewards from concession stands. MLB has shown itself to be an early adopter of technology in an attempt to modernize both baseball itself, introducing new replay systems, and the experience of watching a game. In the ballpark itself, the league teamed up with Qualcomm to improve its wireless connectivity and moved quickly to adopt Apple's Passbook system for the purchase of game tickets. At home, it signed a partnership with YouTube that allowed baseball fans worldwide to watch current season highlights, in addition to "tens of thousands of hours" of archived footage.