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February 17, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 11:07am

Five things you need to know about iBeacon

Apple is using location data in a whole new way, and it’s about to transform your life.

By Joe Curtis

Apple changed the way we live with the iPod. Then it did it again with the iPhone.

Steve Jobs repeated the feat once again with the iPad, and just as we get used to that, his company’s about to transform our lives for the fourth time.

Apple announced its iBeacon technology with iOS7 and it’s been built into all the firm’s operating systems and devices since 2013. If businesses simply set up some transmitters, they can send messages to nearby smartphones advertising their presence and doing everything from sending special offers to recognising a customer.

Here CBR outlines five things you need to know about iBeacon.


1. It’s based on Bluetooth Low Energy

We’ve already reported that Bluetooth LE is fuelling the Internet of Things, and the latest version of the 10-year-old innovation was designed specifically so it’s not as energy sapping as its predecessors. This is the backbone of iBeacon – despite Bluetooth’s location-based technology, it wouldn’t work if everyone disabled the feature to conserve battery life.

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It also means it’s open standard. While Apple’s trademarked iBeacon, Android and other operating systems can utilise Bluetooth to do the same thing too. The only thing they’d need to do is develop a similar app – Apple decided to build it into iOS7, meaning each smartphone automatically locates itself by using its own triangulating software.

2. Bluetooth and NFC will go head to head

Near Field Communication (NFC) has co-existed fairly peacefully with Bluetooth since 2004, but many predict that relations will grow hostile as the IoT takes hold. Nine years ago, NFC was very different to Bluetooth, but while the two are based on very distinct technologies, they are growing increasingly similar.

NFC is limited to distances of just a few centimetres, while Bluetooth extends to more than 30ft. But as Bluetooth’s location accuracy improves with every update, and as the IoT means close-field communication becomes more important, the question arises: don’t we just need one?

3. You’ll save so much money

So, so much money. Just from walking into a store and agreeing to share your location with the shop, you’ll be bombarded with money-off vouchers on everything from crackers to cheese. Okay, we may just be preoccupied with delicious evening snacks, but you name a product and there will be a voucher for it as firms try to entice people to spend with them through iBeacon.


4. There’s some privacy issues

As with all connected devices, there’s a trade-off between reaping the benefits of iBeacon and parting with your privacy. Effectively it’s a very attractive way for companies to collect extremely granular data on you. How long you took to buy whatever product you bought, what you decided not to buy after checking it out, how long you stay in the store on what days of the week; the list is probably much longer.

5. As the Internet of Things grows, so will the benefits of iBeacon

With IoT potentially encompassing everything from your toaster to your toothbrush, technology like iBeacon will become ever more relevant to daily life.

Your house/car/safe (okay, maybe not your safe) will unlock once you’re within a certain proximity. Then your radio might switch on, or your oven heat up, while anxious parents could set up a notification when their children arrive home from school.

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