Have you heard about iBeacons? It’s possible this new technology will change many things about how we interact with our world. I’m still learning and experimenting with iBeacons – here’s what I know so far.
For starters – what exactly is iBeacon technology? It’s basically a low-level location and broadcasting technology that is built into smartphones. Here’s how it works: A beacon is a small BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) device that’s battery powered. It broadcasts a small amount of data, and smartphone apps can receive the signal and perform actions or share locations.
Apple has jumped into this big-time. Newer iOS 7 and later devices have iBeacon transmitters and receivers built into them. Newer Android and Windows devices also have BLE compatibility built in. Because of Apple’s involvement, you’ll see this technology referred to as both iBeacons (the Apple version) and as Beacons (no “i”).
Basically, iBeacons do two things:
- They are awesome at location. They can find you (or, more accurately, your smartphone) within a few feet.
- In conjunction with an app, they can send you information – either general or personalized info, depending on the app.
These two things help create the “magic” of iBeacons; ambient context identification. This simply means that the iBeacon can send you personalized, pertinent information, based on where you’re standing (depending on the app and what location services you have turned on).
Retail stores have been early adopters and experimenters of iBeacon technology. Macy’s and Apple have installed them in all their stores. If you have the appropriate app installed (Shopkick for Macy’s, the Apple Store app for Apple), you will be sent “helpful” messages about sales and other deals, depending on where you are in the store. Apple will alert you when your order is assembled.
My next couple of posts will cover more about iBeacons. Stay tuned!
Image by Jonathan Nalder