What is iBeacon
iBeacon is Apple’s implementation of Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) wireless technology to create a different way of providing location-based information and services to iPhones and other iOS devices. iBeacon arrived in iOS7, which means it works with iPhone 4s or later, iPad (third generation and onwards) iPad mini and iPod touch (fifth generation or later). It’s worth noting the same BLE technology is also compatible with Android 4.3. and above.
How does it Work?
The beacons themselves are small, cheap Bluetooth transmitters. Apps installed on your iPhone listen out for the signal transmitted by these beacons and respond accordingly when the phone comes into range.
For example, if you pass a beacon in a shop, the retailer’s app (assuming you have it installed) could display a special offer alert for you. On a visit to a museum, the museum’s app would provide information about the closest display, using your distance from beacons placed near exhibits to work out your position. As such iBeacon could be a much better option for in-door mapping – which GPS struggles with.
Why is iBeacon such a big deal?
The technology could be a big step towards mobile payments, something smartphone makers have been looking at for a long time without getting it right. Running the technology which breaks through and becomes the standard is going to be very lucrative. As such iBeacon is not the only game in town – PayPal is working on its own ‘PayPal Beacon’ technology – expected next year – which will allow shoppers to ‘check-in’ and pay for goods from the PayPal account on their phone. Near Field Communications (NFC) is another technology trying to find an niche (right now with limited to success) in mobile payments, plus plenty of others.
Depending on how iBeacon evolves and is adopted it could form an important part of Apple’s ecommerce and mobile payments effort. For example, the combination of iBeacon and Passbookcould allow you to get sent a coupon while in a store and buy something without ever seeing a member of staff. Equally, shoppers may find the whole thing slightly unnerving and ignore it altogether.
Typical Application Scenarios:
1. Push notification when entering or exiting a beacon region
2. Measure signal strengths to infer distances
3. Indoor navigation
4. Location-based marketing
5. Mobile guides
6. Check-in service