Apple iBeacon

Apple’s iBeacon is a location-based service on Apple mobile devices, such as the iPhone, running the company’s operating system (iOS) that tracks the device’s location and can alert other apps when it approaches or leaves a location.

Apple’s iBeacon is a location-based service on Apple mobile devices, such as the iPhone, running the company’s operating system (iOS) that tracks the device’s location and can alert other apps when it approaches or leaves a location. The iBeacon technology has become increasingly important in providing targeted advertising, promotions and other offers to customers based on their location and buying habits.

Using Bluetooth low energy (BLE) wireless transmitters, iBeacons send out a signal that is picked up by other beacons, which respond by piping targeted content to users, through the organization's app. The places spearheading the use of iBeacon technology are retail stores but organizations such as museums or sports arenas use them as well.

For example, if a user has a particular retail store's app installed on the phone, when the user walks by the store the iBeacon will alert the store's mobile app of the user's location and a special offer or notice of a sale might pop up on the phone. Content will only be displayed on the user's device if the store's app is running. Other than retail stores, iBeacon has been tested in such locations as airports and museums and sports arenas in order to inform users about particular points of interest or, in the case of airports, sense when they are close to the security checkpoint and automatically display their boarding passes, direct them to their gate, etc.

The iBeacon technology also features micro-location capabilities that open possibilities for indoor mapping. Typically, GPS-capable apps have been useful only in navigating users while outdoors since the signal cannot penetrate the walls of buildings. While indoors, iBeacons can connect with a nearby beacon to allow the user to navigate to points of interest.

The iBeacon, which is made by third-party manufacturers and not by Apple, became available on iOS 7, which means it works with iPhone 4S or later, iPad third generation or later, iPad mini and iPod touch fifth generation or later.

This was first published in August 2014

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