Where are the MLB iBeacons?

March 27, 2014

Opening Day is coming over the next two weeks and so far there have been no additional press releases from MLB or individual clubs. Will the remaining 18 stadiums be ready for Opening Day? In addition, the ‘At the Ballpark’ app has not yet been updated as outlined in the press release. The last update to the app was on September 15, 2013.

If you’re just getting up to speed on the story, here’s what you need to know:

Where

MLB announced in September 2013 that 20 ballparks would be outfitted with iBeacon technology for the 2014 season. As of February 14, 2014 the installation of iBeacon networks had been completed at Dodger stadium and Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres. No other stadiums have since been named.

Beacon Hardware

According to MLB, Petco Park and Dodger Stadium have “65 beacons” between the two stadiums. The hardware is Qualcom’s Gimbal, built to “Apple’s specifications.”

Supported Phones

Based on the February 14, 2014 press release from MLB, it sounds like iPhones only. There was no mention of Android devices:

"The introduction of iBeacon services in our ‘At The Ballpark’ app will be the latest evolution in this process, giving us another important platform to engage fans with their surroundings and to enjoy customized experiences through their iPhones."

User Experience

Users will need to download the free MLB.com ‘At the Ballpark’ app to use iBeacons. According to the terms and conditions, expect to see iBeacons used for “tailoring” the mobile experience through:

  • Advertisements
  • Content
  • Social networking
  • Connecting location information for e-mail use
  • Collection of information about user interactions
  • Customization of the user experience and push of relevant offers
  • In an article at Apple Insider, MLB showcased the some features at Mets Citi Field:

“Fans who purchase their tickets from MLB could have the tickets' barcode automatically displayed on their device as they approach the gate, for example, alongside a map of their seat location. Those who visit a concession stand might be given a virtual "point card," while fans shopping for merchandise can be served coupons upon entering the team store.

Since the features can be customized for each team and each ballpark, they can also be used to turn the stadium into a sort of "living museum" — part of Thursday's demonstration had the app play a video about the history of the Mets' iconic home run apple when standing near the statue.

"Essentially, we want to create micro-locations within the stadiums where you can get different experiences," said Marc Abramson, an MLB developer who works on MLB's iOS apps, adding that the league 'couldn't be more excited about the potential' of iBeacons. MLB considered using GPS for the new features, but issues with spatial accuracy and reception made that approach less than ideal.”

We’ll be watching to see what happens on Opening Day, both with iBeacons in MLB parks and with the final score of our hometown team.

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