“Apple Inc.’s latest product to carry the ‘i’ prefix — following the iPhone and iPad — promises to do for indoor spaces what GPS did for the outdoors,” Daisuke Wakabayashi, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Greg Bensinger report for The Wall Street Journal. “Apple’s iBeacon allows apps to locate a user within a few inches, so that a phone can direct a driver to the nearest open spot in a parking garage or the shortest hot-dog line in a crowded stadium. It allows restaurant diners to pay the check and leave without a waiter’s assistance or museum-goers to learn about exhibits by walking past. Soon, it might make shopping-mall maps unnecessary.”

“Hundreds of millions of iPhones can detect iBeacon signals, and Apple is encouraging developers of more than one million apps in its App Store to use the technology,” Wakabayashi, Dwoskin and Bensinger report. “Apple has moved cautiously with iBeacon, in part because it might raise concerns about being tracked. Apple says iBeacon transmitters don’t track users, because they only send out a signal, and don’t receive information. The technology is in relatively limited use, deployed in many Apple retail stores and some Major League Baseball stadiums.”

“Apple is expected to reveal more iBeacon plans at its World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco starting Monday, where it also intends to preview new versions of its iOS mobile-operating system and Mac OSX software. To promote iBeacon, Apple will place beacons throughout Moscone Center and offer sessions for developers on how to implement the technology,” Wakabayashi, Dwoskin and Bensinger report. “By understanding a user’s location, apps can begin to guess what users need or want to do next. It opens the door to a world of “ambient intelligence,” an industry phrase describing an environment that senses a person’s presence and responds accordingly.”

“Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. has installed beacons in London’s Heathrow Airport so a passenger’s smartphone automatically displays a boarding pass when he approaches the gate or airport security. LabWerk, a Dutch startup, has an app to help drivers navigate parking garages and alert them to empty spots or guide them to their cars,” Wakabayashi, Dwoskin and Bensinger report. “‘This has the potential to be transformative,’ said John Jackson, analyst at research firm IDC. ‘It could be the technology that underpins a future where anything you’d want or need to know is delivered to you in the most intelligent of ways.'”

Read more in the full article here.

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