Apple’s iBeacon will put the ‘internet of things’ in your pocket

December 10, 2013

An iPhone using Apple’s iBeacon (credit: Apple)

Apple switched on “iBeacons” across its 254 U.S. stores Friday, using low-power Bluetooth transmitters to offer tips to customers.

Here’s how it works, according to GigaOm:

“Using Bluetooth Low Energy(BLE), iBeacon opens up a new whole dimension by creating a beacon around regions so your app can be alerted when users enter them. Beacons are a small wireless sensors placed inside any physical space [under shelves in Apple stores to promote products] that transmit data to your iPhone using Bluetooth Low Energy (also known as Bluetooth 4.0 and Bluetooth Smart).”

But Apple’s stores are just the first step. “iBeacons could start popping up at retailers, museums, sports arenas, and countless other destinations in the months to come,” says The Verge. “Macy’s is already conducting a private iBeacon trial¬†through a partnership with Shopkick,” for instance.

And it goes beyond stores. As Business Insider points out, “every mobile device made by Apple since the iPhone 4S and the third-generation iPad are already capable of being deployed as an iBeacon receiver or transmitter.

“Meaning Apple already has about 170 to 190 million active iOS devices out there that can serve as iBeacons. After the fourth quarter wave of holiday sales, and once Apple starts selling devices through¬†China Mobile, that number could balloon to almost 250 million active iOS devices.”

Further analysis at TechCrunch.

Home appliances too

Meanwhile, in another “internet of things” project, home appliances, cars and computers could soon be talking to one another, thanks to an open source framework that has the backing of consumer electronics manufacturers in a new industry alliance, says PC World.

“The framework runs on software platforms such as Linux, Android, iOS, and Windows … and could, for example, be used to let users easily connect their various music playing devices to nearby wireless speakers. Today this could be problematic because nearly all consumers mix and match audio output components from different manufacturers and store audio on a variety of local devices … or let a house detect a car within a mile of home and then turn on the lights and heat as well as automatically open the garage door when the car is near.”

Apple’s iBeacon is less invasive than this Minority Report scenario, but could be more effective: