Using iBeacons To Help The Homeless

Today an idea flashed into my head which may or may not be a good one. In brief it's a way to help the homeless using new technology.

I'd like some feedback on the idea to help me validate it as something worth exploring further.


As I walk from the train station to my office I pass 3 homeless people. I don't know their individual stories but they are there most days. From time to time I either give them some spare change or buy a copy of the Big Issue from the one guy that sells it.

The problem

Today, as I walked past one of the homeless men begging near the station entrance I reached into my pocket for some change but the only thing I pulled out was my iPhone.

I wanted to help him out but I simply couldn't. Unless I was going to gift him my phone I would have to wait until I had some change another day.

The situation got me thinking. I wanted to give to this person but I had no way to perform a transaction as I had no cash with me.

What if I could use my phone to give money to the homeless man?

Whilst I know a cash-free world is a long way off, my idea connects the iPhone in your pocket with the needs of homeless people.

Contactless paymets, online shopping and Apple Pay are rapidly becoming the norm. These are all great advancements but what does they mean for the homeless people that rely on small cash donations to survive?

My solution

Proximity based giving: iBeacon technology mixed with a simple app.

Give money to a homeless person via your smartphone based on your proximity to the person you want to help.

Bare with me....I'm thinking as I type here...

App concept

By virtue of the fact that you are nearby a homeless person (hopefully talking to them) you would be able to give them some money, or maybe an amount towards a meal, or a hot drink or even some contribution towards accommodation.

Initial thoughts:

  • app notifies user there is a homeless person nearby
  • app could show a photo / bio
  • user can choose an amount to give
  • amount given credited to virtual account
  • homeless person can redeem at local shop / cafe etc
  • could choose to give more later from home or maybe next time user is close to the location of a homeless person

Things to consider:

  • security / privacy for homeless person
  • would local shops engage
  • might the concept be better suited to big issue vendors
  • could giftaid be applied - would need tie up with charity I think!

Feedback please

I can't decide if this is a terrible idea or a good one. Please comment below - rip the idea to pieces, challenge it to buggery and let's see if it's one to pursue.