Apple recently introduced a new technology that uses Bluetooth Low Energy technology support, also known as BLE, was deployed in the most recent iOS 7. This new technology allows devices such as iBeacon to communicate with mobile devices. Although initially for iOS, it also runs on Android. One thing to note that is that Android as of yet supports BLE fully. BLE uses proximity sensing to tranmit unique keys or “identifiers” to the device and trigger actions. BLE requires that a device have Bluetooth 4.0. Although BLE has been compared to NFC, they are very different and do not overlap. iBeacon uses BLE and can be used at home or by business to help keep track of your location and the users’ needs.
IBeacon is used with a “beacon” device that communicates to the users device. It can send information about the business the user is visiting. Several examples are given, including that of a restaurant. A user is shown walking by the restaurant and receiving specials and is allowed to view the menu. Once the iPhone user walks into the restaurant, they are able to order from the menu and send the order directly to the kitchen. Other use cases include a beacon device attached to a refrigerator which allows the user to change the information of current items in the refrigerator. Once an item is consumed, a shopping list is saved to the iPhone. Once they visit the store, the beacon device at the supermarket alerts the user of the items on the shopping list and directs them to their location. This particular device is called the beacon device. The main reason for the name, is because it allows the device to estimate the proximity of the mobile device very accurately. Another use case is that of a clothing store. Once the iPhone user comes in proximity of the store, a beacon is sent out and the user receives a notification from that particular clothing store with a personalized message. The iPhone user can then browse current specials or inventory. In this use case, one estimote beacon is placed near the entrance of the store, to welcome a customer and others are placed around the store next to particular categories of clothes, i.e. pants, dress shirts.
Estimote recently was an exhibitor at the TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2013. Estimotes beacon developer kits run a cool $99 for it. This kit comes with three estimotes in three different colors. These devices do not use very much power and run on 3V CR 2450 batteries. Estimote makes available an SDK, their API and source code for some demo apps, so developers can do what they do best, develop.
Given the iBeacons flexibility, a developer can create customized apps that allow store owners to communicate with their customers in a revolutionized way. This helps reduce costs, and potentially increase revenues by recommending products to their customers. Business owners can also use iBeacon to help provide a better and more personalized experience for their customers. iBeacon can also be used by iPhone users also to keep track of personalized information as shown in the example before. Beacons can transmit information as close as 4 inches away up to 200 feet away, giving users and developers flexibility and coverage.