St. George Bank pings branch customers with iBeacon

Service sends personalised messages using Bluetooth wireless transmitters

St. George Bank customers will receive personalised messages on their Apple iPhone or iPad when they walk into branches participating in the Westpac subsidiary’s trial of iBeacon technology.

The iBeacon is Apple’s version of a technology that uses small wireless transmitter devices and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), also known as Bluetooth Smart, to interact with nearby devices.

St. George has revealed that is trialling iBeacon at three Sydney branches. When a customer walks into the bank, the iBeacon senses the person’s entrance and sends a welcome message and personalised information directly to the iPhone or iPad.

A look at the iPhone interface
A look at the iPhone interface

“The new technology will let us know who our customers are when they walk into a branch and what service and products we might be able to help them with,” a St. George spokesman elaborated.

“The customer will receive a welcome message and details of the branch manager, as well as a range of options they can choose depending on the service they require, such as seeing the branch manager or speaking to a home lender.”

Also, the bank hopes the service could help to reduce queue times by allowing customers to select to see the manager or a lender as soon as they enter the branch, the spokesman said.

Customers can respond to the message or cancel the interaction.

St. George is using the trial to gain feedback and determine whether customers find the service useful. The bank will review results of the trial and tweak the service as appropriate before moving ahead with a national rollout, the St. George spokesman said.

“The future of business will be in the ability to anticipate customer’s needs, understand what matters to them and act on that knowledge to surprise and delight them,” said St. George CEO George Frazis. “Our investment in iBeacon will help us to achieve that – and it has the potential to dramatically change the service experience in Australian banking.

“The iBeacon trial forms part of a broader investment in our retail branches that will see more digital technology and increased staff expertise to make banking simpler, easier and faster for our customers," he said.

St. George CIO Dhiren Kulkarni said the iBeacon trial marks “the first step in the process to explore how closely we can integrate the technology into our branches to deliver a new level of customer service".

The trial requires the user to have an Apple device that supports iBeacon (iOS 7), with the St. George app installed and Bluetooth activated. The app does not need to be open nor does the device need to be in hand when the customer enters the branch, the St. George spokesman said.

St. George has plans to support Android and other mobile platforms in the future, but the current trial is limited to Apple users, the spokesman said.

The bank has also recently revealed trials of wearable devices including smart watches and Google Glass. The banks is testing how wearables can be used for basic functions like checking account balances and locating bank branches.

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

Read more: Will smart watches and glasses drive mobile payments?

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