Introducing iBeacon

These days there seems to be an “i” everything; iMac, iPod, iPod iTouch, iTunes, iLife, iWork, iPhone, iPad, iPad Mini, and now iBeacon.

Bluetooth technology now has another use. Introducing Apples iBeacon. iBeacon is the application of Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) wireless technology to provide location based information services to devices within the proximity of the sensor. The technology is launched with iOS7 and works with iPhone 4s and onwards, as well as the iPad 3, Mini & Touch. The same BLE technology is also compatible with the Android 4.3 and onwards.

Beacons are Bluetooth transmitters and small in size. They work when apps are installed on your phone. In fact, they work on any device which supports the sharing of data using Bluetooth low energy. The apps watch out for the transmitted signal from the beacons and take action when the phone comes in range.

For example; you walk into a shop and pass by a beacon. If you have that particular shops application installed on your phone, it could pop up with an alert displaying a promotion or special offer for you, delivered straight to your device. Or if you go to an art gallery or exhibition, you could wander around with the application sending you information about the display you are in the nearest proximity to. iBeacon will potentially be a far more accurate and accessible option for in-door mapping in the future, which we know GPS currently has issues with.

iBeacon is still in the early stages of testing, and Virgin Atlantic have put in place a cool trial for it. As passengers move around the airport towards check in, their phone will automatically be finding their boarding pass ready to present to security.

You may be slightly unnerved by this recent technology update. You’re now going to get bombarded by ads whenever you go somewhere?

This entirely depends on your security and privacy settings, and how many applications you have on your device. You can update your privacy settings to max out at a certain number and frequency of ads.

The technology itself also has some criteria which must be met in order for you to receive notifications; these include crossing the beacon boundary, and remaining at a minimum distance from it for approximately 20 seconds. You can of course block this movement altogether by keeping your Bluetooth switched off.

This type of technology could be a big move in the way of mobile payments. Apple is certainly not the only ones in the game, of note are PayPal who are working on their own Beacon which allows for people to check in and purchase goods using their PayPal account on their phone, all on the go.

The iBeacon, if it evolves well and is fully adopted, could become an important part of Apple’s e-commerce and mobile payments strategy in the future. For example, if you could combine iBeacon and Passbook, you could get sent an offer while you are shopping and buy something on the fly without ever having to go through a staff member. However this technology could completely go the other way with people wanting to stay as far away from it as possible due to its impersonal nature.

So what are your thoughts on this technology and the fact that once again, it is Apple leading the charge in this space?

Do you like the idea of receiving easy access offers to your phone, and potentially being able to make purchases on the fly?

Or would you prefer the more traditional route, in-store specials and actually speaking to sales assistants? This is definitely a space to watch.

One thing is for sure, technology continues to disrupt our world every single day. Will you embrace it, or try to ignore it for as long as possible?

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