4 reasons why Apple’s iBeacon is about to disrupt interaction design

“You step inside Walmart and your shopping list is transformed into a personalized map, showing you the deals that’ll appeal to you most,” Kyle Vanhemert writes for Wired. “You pause in front of a concert poster on the street, pull out your phone, and you’re greeted with an option to buy tickets with a single tap. You go to your local watering hole, have a round of drinks, and just leave, having paid—and tipped!—with Uber-like ease. Welcome to the world of iBeacon.”

“It sounds absurd, but it’s true: Here we are in 2013, and one of the most exciting things going on in consumer technology is Bluetooth. Indeed, times have changed. This isn’t the maddening, battery-leeching, why-won’t-it-stay-paired protocol of yore,” Vanhemert writes. “Today we have Bluetooth Low Energy which solves many of the technology’s perennial problems with new protocols for ambient, continuous, low-power connectivity. It’s quickly becoming big deal.”

“Gadgets talking to other gadgets is only part of the allure. Even more novel is the promise of letting our devices talk to the world around us, whether we’re in a bar, a bookstore, or a ballpark. That’s precisely the future Apple is quietly laying the tracks for with a little-known iOS 7 feature called iBeacon,” Vanhemert writes. “Standalone iBeacons [are] low-cost gizmos that continually beam out a Bluetooth signal, running for up to a year on a small watch battery. These are the types of transmitters that will open the physical world to our digital devices. The barista at your local coffee shop may already know your face, but with an iBeacon stuck to its front window, that coffee shop will be able to know your smartphone, too. Where does that leave us? We’re already starting to see hints of the possibilities, and only a handful of them involve coupons.”

Much more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Apple could have 250 million iBeacon-capable units in the wild by 2014 – December 7, 2013
Apple turns on iBeacon to guide shoppers at 254 U.S. retail stores – December 6, 2013
Bar deploys Apple’s iBeacon to give patrons free access to Newsstand magazines – December 4, 2013
Macy’s becomes first retailer to deploy Apple’s iBeacon for in-store presence – November 20, 2013
Beyond retail: What’s next for indoor location tracking with Apple’s iBeacon – November 15, 2013
Apple’s location-tracking iBeacon is poised to explode across retail faster than anyone can imagine – October 25, 2013
Attention, retailers: With iBeacon, Apple has figured out mobile marketing – October 11, 2013
Apple’s iBeacon to deliver completely interactive experiences for fans at MLB stadiums – September 27, 2013
Apple’s amazing iOS 7: Three game-changers hidden in plain sight – September 26, 2013
Apple’s brilliant iBeacons system will enable purchases, contextual marketing, automated check-ins and much more – September 14, 2013
Apple’s NFC killer: iOS 7′s iBeacons – September 11, 2013
iBeacons may prove to be Apple’s biggest new feature for iOS 7 – August 29, 2013
Apple v. Android: Bang per watt – Apple’s massive advantage – August 13, 2013

21 Comments

        1. If you don’t have the app installed (e.g., ShopKick), you won’t receive any notifications. I’m sure you can keep them turned off just like you can now with Location Services.

          1. iBeacons, yes; Apple offers up proximity events via the CoreLocation framework. If location data is disabled for the app, then it can’t receive these events.

            3rd party beacon platforms, such as the one ShopKick uses. Not so sure about that? All that’s really required is Bluetooth be turned on. There’s not much Apple can do about it to restrict developers as Bluetooth device discoverability is necessary even for non beacon applications.

            The best thing you can do, is just not install the offending app. This is going to be a huge problem though. If Google decides to have all their apps listen for their own beacons, then simply using YouTube on your iOS device will allow Google to gather and collect data from those beacons, effectively tracking where you’ve been and what you’re possibly interested in. — Damn! I feel sorry for Android users where Google can do this at the OS level.

      1. That response has become too common. We have that feature for other uses (like hands free earpieces) and dont want to just turn it off, so for someone to suggest that we must do without it all together or submit to the barrage of spam coupon offers is unacceptable.

  1. The thought of being even further inundated with advertising like this article describes almost made me wet my pants.

    I wonder how well it works if I just leave my phone (which I don’t even own one) in the car?

    I like how when I search for something to buy all of the ads in Safari change to that item, and stay that way for weeks after i’ve already bought it.

    1. Why would you think iBeacon would work if you left your phone in the car? It’s not GPS, it’s Bluetooth LE, so you have to be very near something for it to go off (e.g., pass a display, walk through the door where an iBeacon is located, etc.).

  2. Everyone talks about paying with iBeacons, but who can explain how that will happen? There’s no app or existing avenue through which people would pay through iBeacons, is there?

      1. I mean to ask how we will pay for regular things like a sweater, 10 gallons of gas or a haircut. If it’s going to be iTunes that functionality is still dormant, right? So do we think that will happen? Will competing companies also be able to offer payment through iBeacons? Is special software needed to send a customer a bill, have them receive it on their iDevice, and then pay for it? …I’d really like to understand the nuts and bolts of how this would work.

    1. No there’s not, and it’s not the purpose of Apple’s iBeacons. iBeacons is strictly a proximity alert service – all it does is notify an app that you’re within range of a BLE device advertising Apple’s iBeacon service.

      That BLE device can be anything though; a car, a cash register, a thermostat, etc. It’s up to the app to determine how to further interact with it. In the case of a POS (point of sale system), some form of interaction would take place between it and the app to authorize the transaction.

  3. I do hope that places that are making use of iBeacon advertise the fact. I keep Bluetooth on my phone off to save power (I have no Bluetooth accessories or Bluetooth in my car), so I’d have to turn it on before I’d get any of the benefits.

    ——RM

  4. If companies use iBeacons to bombard us with intrusive advertising, the will put off customers. US advertising is vastly more intrusive than would be acceptable in the UK. It would be a very foolish company that overstepped the line when advertising to UK consumers.

    Instead, iBeacons should be used to enhance the shopping experience for the customer. Happy customers spend more and return. Retailers should make it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for and pay for it. Money-off vouchers are often appreciated, but pressuring people to buy additional items is not a good idea, unless it’s a helpful “Do you want batteries for that ?”.

    Enlightened and imaginative retailers will benefit greatly from iBeacons. Other retailers will use it inappropriately and suffer the consequences. The best way to use it will depend on the culture in the country it’s being used. What works well in Japan could be counter-productive in Greece.

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