Apple is well known as one of the most premium hardware and software developers in the world. Apple devices are well known for their finesse, great hardware and reliable performance, and their software for its intuitive use, quality and great usage experience. Over the years, Apple has been well known as a company well ahead of its time, creating products and solutions which are innovative, unique and superbly useful for people. With the announcement of their latest iBeacon technology, Apple has firmly stamped their authority as innovators and forward thinkers. This new technology is a marvel of technological progress and can have a wide variety of different uses in many different areas in years to come.
The iBeacon Technology
Put in simple terms, the iBeacon technology is a skillful and unique implementation of the BLE or Bluetooth Low Energy technology of wireless communication. Apple devices which run iOS 7 and above, like iPhone and iPad devices, can make use of this technology to receive and interpret location based information and services. BLE is a relatively new technology which can have a myriad of applications, and this is a great way to harness the power of the efficient and versatile medium of wireless communication.
The idea of iBeacon involves the use of beacons, which are basically low cost Bluetooth transmitters with relatively low power consumption. These can be places in certain areas from where they can transmit a certain signal via Bluetooth. Specific apps installed on your Apple device can then search and listen for these signals and deliver a certain kind of response. Meant primarily for indoor use, this technology can have a large number of applications across different domains. Some of its implications, like in the retail sector or in large public buildings, is seemingly obvious, and it can also be said with certainty that with time, more and more innovative uses for this technology will start cropping up in other domains as well.
Testing and the Retail Domain
Since winter last year, Apple has been testing the iBeacon technology at various sectors. Most of the testing so far has been done in the retail sector, where these beacons are used for promotional purposes and to provide customers with information about products and offers. In a retail outlet, if an iPhone user passes a beacon or comes within range, the user would then receive information about products in the vicinity or intimation about special offers, provided the device has the retailer’s app installed. The technology has been tested at an airport as well, where it has been successfully used to bring up mobile boarding passes to the devices of passengers queuing at a particular gate of a terminal for departure. Results from these tests provide conclusive evidence that this technology can be used for a variety of purposes and can produce great results.
The iBeacon Beacon
Technically, any device that uses little power and is portable and can be easily placed in small areas can function as a beacon. They emit Bluetooth data and can transmit prompts, messages and information directly to Apple devices which are inside its range. The range is influenced by various factors including distance and any kind of intervening material in between. Apart from creating the technology and implementing support for it in their devices, Apple has left the manufacturing of the beacons to third party manufacturers, who have the freedom to create and design beacons according to the requirements of their clients. On the user end, people can opt to receive or not receive beacon notifications, and can limit or choose the kind and number of notifications they receive based on the apps they have installed and the settings they have chosen.
- Retail – The retail sector is embracing the iBeacon technology in a big way, using it to provide customers with product information, deals, offers and other important data, and also to facilitate a fast and easy checkout process with a payment system that is entirely contactless.
- Public Buildings – The use of beacons in public buildings like airports and museums can make routine processes easier and the retrieval of relevant information faster.
- Transit Systems – All transit systems can benefit immensely from the use of the iBeacon technology.
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