UPDATED!!! (as of 08-Feb-2014)
Lately, but not for very long (as of the writing of this article), there has been a bit of buzzy-buzzy around Apple’s iBeacon technology. It’s a mixture of software and hardware that allows iOS devices to receive one-way broadcasts from little Bluetooth “beacon” devices. It’s said to be the big “NFC killer” (NFC = Near Field Communications). I would add an asterisk to that statement: It’s an NFC killer as far as retail and point-of-purchase, but probably not as far as supply chain (container tracking), security (door fobs, badges) and other non-retail uses.
I didn’t think much about the technology at first. “NFC killer” seemed like a pretty bold statement. How can you beat the simplicity of just touching your phone to a thingie at the point-of-purchase (“PoP”)? It’s basically “tap-to-buy.” However, after some thought and discussions with business development peeps at the office, the possibilities beyond PoP started to become obvious. I started to realize just how flippin’ cool this unassuming technology really was. Lemme ‘splain…
What is (are) iBeacons?
iBeacons (the word or name) is a trademark of Apple (go figure, given the “i” in front of “Beacons”). As a side note, there’s also a “LIVE” trademark registration for the same name owned by a company in Canada, but for a slightly different concept. I don’t know if that trademark has been taken over by Apple or not. I’m not a patent/trademark attorney. It’s status is “live,” so I assume it is coexisting, at this point.
We first learned of iBeacons at the 2013 Apple World Wide Developer Conference. It was a little label on a slide during the keynote presentation that wasn’t really hyped at the time:
WWDC 2013 API Slide with iBeacons
Developers who are under the usual Apple Developer NDA and who attended WWDC’13 got to see more about iBeacons technology in the CoreLocation session. The iOS CoreLocation framework makes it pretty easy to work with beacon devices and beacon regions, as I’ve found out experimenting with them. More on that later…
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