What ever happened to Apple’s iBeacon?

“In 2013, Apple unveiled a technology that had the potential to revolutionize brick-and-mortar retail: iBeacon,” Evan Niu writes for The Motley Fool. “The protocol was built on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), and promised to enable micro-location tracking in a way that offered far more accuracy than traditional GPS or the assisted GPS in modern smartphones. We’re talking about being able to tell what specific aisle a customer is perusing, and being able to market to that customer accordingly.”

“At the time, Apple was rumored to be working on mobile payments — what we now know as Apple Pay — and the idea of micro-locations combined with mobile payments was like a futuristic dream for retailers. Imagine offering a targeted coupon or discount to a customer based on micro-location and then prompting them to pay on the spot with a smartphone,” Niu writes. “Third-party companies like Estimote even sprouted up to make and sell beacons using iBeacon.”

“Following a pilot program, Macy’s said in 2014 that it would roll out beacon technology nationwide. Major League Baseball uses beacons to make ballparks more interactive in numerous ways. Even a few local grocery stores tried deploying them for the same retail reasons. So what happened?” Niu writes. “Apple never really cared all that much. For starters, Apple hasn’t really done much over the years to promote the protocol in a meaningful way. In fact, it never really did. iBeacon was little more than a footnote during WWDC 2013, and wasn’t even mentioned during WWDC 2014.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: It’s not exactly on life support. It’s more like treading water. You can either get picked up in time by a passing boat or – glub, glub, glub – hope you enjoyed your swim!

Apple patents citywide iBeacon-based navigation infrastructure to augment, replace GPS – May 17, 2016
Apple iBeacon finds its way into McDonald’s and sandwich sales increase – December 18, 2014
Estimote makes ‘Nearables’ – iBeacon stickers you can stick on anything – August 22, 2014
Apple and the omnichannel: 9 industries already using Apple’s iBeacon – July 29, 2014
Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor roll out Apple’s iBeacon tech across North America – July 28, 2014
Hundreds of London businesses are about to flip the switch on payments via iBeacons – June 19, 2014
inMarket: iBeacon increases in-store app usage, retention, and brand engagement – June 16, 2014
Google wants in on Apple Inc.’s iBeacon party – June 9, 2014
GE integrates iBeacon into new LED light fixtures, Walmart installing in stores worldwide – May 29, 2014
Walgreens and Walmart testing iBeacon, Motorola Solutions launches iBeacon marketing platform – May 7, 2014
Virgin Atlantic trials Apple iBeacon tech for iPhone users at London Heathrow Airport – May 2, 2014
New York City bars to use Apple’s iBeacon for pub crawl promo – April 28, 2014
New sunglasses with iBeacon notify you when lost, act as beacons in retail – April 28, 2014


    1. As a consumer and someone keen to protect my privacy, I fail to see the appeal of iBeacon as a tool to flog merchandise.

      However I can picture iBeacon deployed by art museums and tourist sites as a sort of “audio guide on steroids”. I have been touring NY, Rome, Naples, and now Paris: NY Met, Roman Forum, Borghese Gallery, Vatican Museum, Colosseum, Natl Archeological Museum of Naples, Pompeii, the Louvre). Even with an audio guide, you need to know where you are to key-in the correct #. Unfortunately, many guides are limited in what they say. It must be a major nuisance to update the audio guides with new material. All this could be better done with something like iBeacon.

      Picture going to a theatre and reading program notes via iBeacon.

      Same for public transportation. Picture getting route & schedule info for the stop you are at.

      All these are much better ideas than using iBeacon to help retailers flog products. Apple (or other wealthy sponsors) should support some demonstration projects to show just how useful this technology could be to help make a ripple in the universe.

      1. Oh please… In the past most of Apple’s resources were dedicated to design. That’s what Steve’s role was – to bring attention back to Apple. Today Apple does a lot more under the hood than they ever did. It’s just not as flashy as shiny new devices. Once they bring everything they need in house, we’ll start to see more devices built using that technology.

      2. This is not about Tim Cook. A lot of things, like iAd, failed even with Steve at the top. The problem is Apples corporate structure is based on functional areas, which does actually funnel everything upwards to a small number of executives. The organization just can’t handle more than a few key products/markets. If Apple is to grow, they really need to re-think the org chart and split some non-tech products like iBeacon off into independent divisions (Yes, it is tech, but not the same as designing computers and phones. It is a marketing technology, sold to retailers, not gadgets sold to consumers).

    1. If you read all of the negative comments posted on MDN you would never guess that Apple would have been able to possess “so much money, so much talent and so many resources” which is something Apple has done for many years and will probably continue to do for the foreseeable future.

      1. True. Most who post here think Apple owes them something. It’s an entitlement attitude.

        So obviously when they don’t get what they want, they whine about how Apple is doomed to fail. It’s juvenille, but sometimes funny in a pathetic sort of way.

          1. “How is it an entitlement attitude when they are paying for the stuff?”
            The “entitled” are those complaining and NOT even considering buying anything. I mean why would anyone BUY the new MBP when it’s so horrible! They want to spend money, Apple’s not making what they want “AND APPLE SHOULD ONLY MAKE WHAT I WANT!”
            I can see how someone would see that as entitled.

            Or maybe like a jilted lover…?

            1. You are ridiculous. If people don’t want something why would they buy it? Should people just buy products solely on the fact that Apple sells it?

              As for the entitlement feelings, yes I think people who have been loyal to Apple through the dark ages should be on the forefront of Apple’s plans. You shouldn’t alienate your base just because they aren’t the cash cow.

            1. I suppose the strength of a company depends on how you view cash-on-hand, cash-flow (revenue -> costs), and material worth (facilities, patents, equipment, inventory. Basically net-worth should operations cease). Apple seems to have a high cash-on-hand, and on the high end of cash-flow, but material worth are somewhat lower than average (outsourced manufacturing and datacenters, low inventory kept on hand) for a company of Apple’s size.

              To put that in perspective Amazon would be very low on relative cash-on-hand, but one of the top 3 if not the top in cash-flow and material worth.

        1. Exactly. I DO feel like Apple owes me something, especially after all the money I have given them. And -I fought tooth and nail to keep them alive, as an Apple Reseller, then as an Apple AE. I actually had to deliver the fabulous sales line, “Yes Apple could be sold next week, but the computer won’t disappear off your desk,” in the bottomed-out late 90’s. And in fact Apple does actually owe me lots of money that their bad mid level management screwed me out of.

          So after being a rabid evangelist since 1985, I do feel a bit of, not entitlement, but hurt. After giving so much, fighting PCs so hard against all odds, Apple still keeps taking us all, their backbone, for granted, just like they did the Resellers who put them in business. When I got to Apple officially I was shocked that they internally blamed their problems on “The Channel” – their own Resellers.

          That sort of thinking hasn’t changed. You can bet Eddy Cue has a long list of scapegoats.

          1. Their problem WAS the channel, not all of them, but enough that kept sales depressed. It’s no surprise they created their own retail stores. Again, nothing against you, but there were bad resellers out there, definitely.

            “Yes Apple could be sold next week, but the computer won’t disappear off your desk”
            change this to
            “Apple could cancel the MacOS line tomorrow, but the computer won’t disappear off your desk” and I think that captures now quite well.

    2. I agree. A small dedicated group could be assigned to help further develop and drive the technology. People at the top are dropping the ball.

      Come on, APPLE, the iBeacon technology has promise. Just put ten people on it and tell them to do great things for it. Order them to imagine cool ways to use it.

      Ten engineers. No more.

    3. Each of the three or four VPs should be able to handle three or four product lines. They should each have directors under them that have a full product line under them. That way Apple should be able to have 9 – 16 separate, distinct product lines with the ones that need to be the most interoperable under a single VP, e.g., the VP over Macs could have directors under him/her that do Macs, input devices (mice and such), networking devices (the rumored to be killed Airport devices and such), and monitors. Another VP could do iPhones and related devices giving three or four directors under him/her for specific sets of devices that are most aligned with the iPhones.

      But then, Apple will never do that. They are much more interested in having many, many VPs that have nebulous job descriptions and even more obscure responsibilities.

  1. Do we really want to be interrupted seventeen times as we wind our way through a big grocery store? Plus, to be actually useful, you would have to have your phone in your hand when your notification pops in or else it will just go off in your jacket pocket for nothing.

    1. Ideally users should be about to preselect which notices they want to receive and to turn all notices off. It really is that simple. What is disturbing is Apple cannot do simple things well now.

    2. I agree with you… it would be a mess. There is a way to make this work much better, but it would have to
      1) include something like apple watch, which creates much less hassle with a notification
      2) item recognition, where you can instantly see if the same product you are looking at is cheaper online or in a nearby store. Amazon already provides something like this, but the tech should be uncoupled from Amazon

  2. Has nothing to do with Apple’s ability to get developers on board. No other platform was able to get the their beacon service “out there” either. It’s more of a user thing than anything else. If users don’t use it, then developers aren’t going to create anything from it.

    Considering that so many people thought Apple was going to use it for a payments system, I’m guessing most people didn’t really know what iBeacon was anyway. It had NOTHING to do with payments and in no way could be used for it. It is just a simple tracking beacon. That’s it.

  3. iBeacon (and other BLE) dead in the water, and it’s not Apple’s fault. At it’s heart, it’s an opt-in technology – people have to download apps, turn them on, then monitor their phones for offers and the like. Three barriers to engagement.

    Retailers turning instead to wifi-based location analytics. Getting better value from tracking crowds anonymously than tracking the few individuals that opt in.

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