Apple Moves Surprisingly Fast towards Realizing its iBeacons Vision

With the launch of iOS 7, retailers and other small-to-medium size enterprises will be able to use this Bluetooth 4.0-based technology.

On December 6, Apple surprised everyone by launching their iBeacons solution in its 254 US retail stores. . Usually, Apple takes a long time to test and perfect new features or solutions before implementation, so this fast-paced development shocked everyone. We weren’t even aware Apple was testing pilot locations outside of their own venues until early autumn.

Of course, the entire idea behind implementation of Apple iBeacons in apple stores is to enhance the customer’s experience when they visit the store, making them aware of products, events and other information through messages. The ultimate vision, however, is to integrate the offline and online worlds of Apple products and customers and integrate payments deep into it.

Apple ibeacon uses BLE (Bluetooth low energy) which opens up a whole new dimension as they are location-aware, context-aware, pervasive small wireless sensors which will know where you are, what are you doing, how long have you spent time at which location, which merchant, and in which isle of merchant store. Beacons are sensors placed inside any physical space that transmits data to your iphone using Bluetooth low energy.

For example: A user approaching a Mcdonalds outlet, implies that his iphone is entering into the Mcdonalds iBeacon region which inturn helps him in transmitting customised coupons. It can even provides walking directions to the store where a particular product is located (if you can see, that was the limitation of GPS based systems and location apps so far).

Some of The Features of Apple iBeacon:

  • It sends the user with notifications on various offers and schemes launched by the merchants.
  • It helps the user in making the online orders through their phone.
  • With Apple Ibeacons user can read product reviews and buys accessories.
  • It helps in checking the stock availability
  • Purchase good for collection after visiting the store
  • With apple ibeacons user can do the payment through their apple application.

Apple said iBeacon provides apps with a whole new level of micro-location awareness, such as trail markers in a park, exhibits in a museum, or product displays in stores. You’ll see solutions implementing this in museums, at festivals, in bars. Enter the era of next generation location apps and products.

Although NFC environment is very different and has many non-overlapping applications with iBeacons, it still calls for a comparison as competing enabling technologies.

  • NFC range is upto 20 cm (7.87 inches) but the actual optimal range is < 4cm (1.57 inches). iBeacons can work upto 50 m range
  • Mobile device needs to have a NFC chip to carry out the communication effectively which restricts the user from NFC.
  • Another advantage Of Apple ibeacon is that not all the phones have NFC chips (no iOS devices) but most of the phones have Bluetooth capability.
  • With the zero battery energy harvesting technology used from devices made by Passif, there is less battery uses then NFC. Understand this is not an NFC vs. BLE debate really but for the first time there is another potent alternative. It is how Apple will seamlessly wrap technologies around a new model.

What if you get accidentally charged by walking past a storefront? iBeacons technology is extremely accurate at tracking distance between devices, so a cash register could be set to ignore all customers except the one standing right in front of counter.

Can it read Android devices? No, but Android app developers are already working on a software that will enable Android to work with iBeacon according to some media sources.

Will it be secure? Apple will encrypt all information before sending it through any system. In the case of BLE, it will be Apple encryption send through an additional AES-128 path. So very secure then one could imagine.

Apple stores is just the beginning. We see iBeacons becoming a billion dollar business in itself. Some believe that iBeacons will become atleast as successful as Passbook with several retailers utilizing this technology especially in the US. Recently, Apple had announced that Major League Baseball (MLB) is all set to integrate iBeacons at their stadiums in 2014. Deeper integration into future iOS updates along with new features and apps can be expected.

Also Read 6 Developments in the area of Beacons, New Adopters and Providers