Why aren’t people freaking out about Apple’s iBeacon?

“The new iOS 7.1, which Apple launched this week, contained massively improved iBeacon functionality,” Mike Elgan writes for Cult of Mac.

“Among these improvements is that Apple has cancelled an element of user permission. Once you’ve installed a store’s app — say, for example, Apple’s own Apple store app — that store can put messages on your lock screen even if the app isn’t running!” Elgan writes. “I think it’s a real improvement. But I’m surprised privacy fans aren’t freaking out.”

“In a nutshell, the improvements to iBeacon fall into two categories. The first is in the area of general performance. Overall responsiveness for iBeacon is much better than before, according to developers who have tried it. The second is in the area of permissions,” Elgan writes. “It’s a bi-product of the fact that the public doesn’t understand the magnitude of how iBeacon and beacon technology will change human culture that the techno-panic crowd isn’t freaking out about the update. In the past, iBeacon was opt-in. Now, it’s opt-out… You do have to install an app, though… You should also know that iBeacon beacons don’t actually track you or collect data from your iPhone. They can only transmit information TO your phone.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: People aren’t freaking out because you have to install the app and give it permission to receive iBeacons. The iOS 7.1 improvements only serve to make iBeacons work better for those who’ve enabled them. Before iOS 7.1, iBeacons were kind of useless. It makes perfect sense to allow iBeacons to be received when the app is installed, permission is granted, and the app isn’t explicitly running; otherwise users would miss the iBeacons they asked to receive.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Dan K.” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Apple’s iOS 7.1 delivers major, game-changing iBeacon improvement – March 11, 2014
SXSW deploys iBeacons to improve attendees’ experience – March 6, 2014
Apple releases iBeacon specification, begins MFI program certification for Bluetooth LE devices – February 25, 2014
Major League Baseball completes iBeacon installation at first two ballparks – February 14, 2014
Will iBeacon alerts be a welcome way to add value to retail visits or just a new way to spam? – February 14, 2014
Apple’s iBeacon turns location sensing inside out: ‘Where am I?’ becomes ‘Here I am!’ – February 10, 2014
Why Apple’s iBeacon technology is ahead of the pack – February 3, 2014
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Major League Baseball deploying thousands of iBeacons for Opening Day – January 31, 2014
Apple’s iBeacon and the future of retail store shopping – January 21, 2014
Apple patent application reveals secure iWallet system with iBeacon – January 16, 2014
Apple’s revolutionary iBeacon: Sometimes the biggest changes in technology have the smallest beginnings – January 13, 2014
Company rolls out Apple’s iBeacon to grocery stores – January 6, 2014
Apple’s iBeacons are creating a new market – December 30, 2013
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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
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21 Comments

  1. This differs from other notifications how?

    Imagine if Facebook and News360 and MDN had to be running for you to receive notifications, much less the apps behind every store in the mall?

  2. I click away from pretty much everything that has an ad that I have to watch before I watch a video. Why would I install an app that lets stores put ads on my phone? Watch, in a few years we’ll be paying extra to make the ads go away, like on the Kindle.

    1. Because iBeacons are simply not just “ads.” You will want to receive iBeacons of interest.

      Learn more about iBeacons using MacDailyNews’ list of related articles above.

    2. Its important to be scared of anything new or that you don’t understand. Never try something new or explore the unknown because things might happen or something. If you imagine that something good could come from something new, put that thought out of your head and remember that you can never be too paranoid.

  3. They can only transmit information TO your phone.

    Thank goodness. This specific feature stops iBeacons dead as a useful avenue for malware. I bring this up because of the potentially crap security (as in potentially ZERO security) of Bluetooth LE. A man-in-the-middle can shove you malware, but then it sits there inert, so why bother.

    Apologies if this is getting confusing to folks. I’m reminded that as I get more security geek I get less newbie comprehendible.

    The Happy Point: You can TURN IT OFF. So if you’re freaking, just flip the bit. In stores, on my gear, that off bit will be flipped. But iBeacon is going to do a lot more than just shill stuff at you. I’m looking forward to using it at museum tours, etc.

      1. You’re welcome. I find this form of communication a bit antiquated but I’m catching on to a few of its guiding principles. Future Macs are essentially sophisticated crystalline configurations implanted by a Mac Genius through the sphenoid blah, blah, etc. on one end and two others, if I’m not mistaken, against the parietal lobes. I never needed to bother with Capitals so, I guess I just need a bit of time to respond physiologically or behaviorally to this era of single environmental factors. hahahaha whatever that means. oops! Whatever that means.

  4. We are freaking out…IT’S MORE ADVERTISING!

    “You should also know that iBeacon beacons don’t actually track you or collect data from your iPhone. They can only transmit information TO your phone.”

    Guess what’s only a matter of time.

    1. It doesn’t have to be advertising. Imagine going to a gallery or museum and downloading their app so you can move from point to point in the gallery and get a running commentary on what you are seeing. Similar to the way you can rent an electronic recorder and headphones now, but much cheaper or even free, because they don’t have to provide you expensive electronic hardware to do the same thing. There will be many other beneficial, non-advertising uses for iBeacons once developers really start to exploit the technology.

      1. Thanks. Been wondering if there were any good non-advertising use of iBeacons. I haven’t heard anyone explain that side of iBeacons before reading your comment.

    2. @ Bob. It doesn’t have to be advertising. Imagine going to a gallery or museum and downloading their app so you can move from point to point in the gallery and get a running commentary on your phone of what you are seeing. Similar to the way you can rent an electronic recorder and headphones now, but much cheaper or even free, because they don’t have to provide you expensive electronic hardware to do the same thing. There will be many other beneficial, non-advertising uses for iBeacons once developers really start to exploit the technology.

    3. Think of hospitals. The medical industry has been one of Apple’s targets from day one of third party apps. Having iBeacons all over the hospital can be a big help. If a patient has an emergency, like cardiac arrest, the nearest staff can be alerted. Doctors and nurses nearby may not hear the intercom while others waste time running to the scene when it is not necessary. They can track patients so all of their care providers know what’s going on with them.

  5. Dummy question:
    Is iBeacon a standalone app, like PassBook, or is it a feature integrated into, say, a Macy’s app?
    Will the toggle for turning on / off receptiveness for store iBeacons for each store’s app live in the Bluetooth section of Settings?

  6. MDN’s take is wrong. Every iOS user needs 3 iBeacon settings:

    1) global off — no iBeacon notifications
    2) on-demand iBeacon — user sees iBeacons only when app is on
    3) always-on iBeacons — user sees iBeacons at any time, whether app is on or not

    Is it really too much to ask for Apple to offer complete user control???????

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