Apple’ Technology: Understanding Apple iBeacons : Trending the future of Shopping

iBeacon is the term used to refer to Apple’s technology standard, that has been built to enable mobile phones (whether running on iOS or Android operating system) to sense signals from beacons in the physical environment and act and/or respond appropriately in accordance with the signal. It is Apple’s implementation of Bluetooth low energy (BLE) wireless technology to create a different way of providing location based information and services. iBeacon allows Bluetooth devices to broadcast or receive tiny and static pieces of data within short distances. In simplistic words, it consists of two parts: a broadcaster (beacon device) and a receiver (smartphone + app). The broadcaster is always advertising “I am here, and my ID is…”, while the receiver detects these signals and does whatever it needs to done based on how close or far it is from them.


Bluetooth Low Energy

Bluetooth Low energy (BLE) is a wireless personal area network technology designed and marketed by Bluetooth Special Interest Group. In contrast with the classic Bluetooth, the Bluetooth Low Energy is provides reduced power consumption and operational cost, while maintaining a similar communication range with little or no deviation. Most of the trending mobile operating systems such as iOS, Android and Windows natively support Bluetooth Low Energy Communication.


Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) VS Classic Bluetooth

Bluetooth is another wireless technology standard (not a piece of plastic you stick in your ear for phone calls). Of course the two are related, but the wireless connection between your phone and the earpiece is called Bluetooth, not the piece itself. Bluetooth was developed as a way to exchange data over a short range, without wiring. Hence, Bluetooth principle is used for wireless headsets, hands-free calling through your car, and/or wireless file transfers. Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy are used for very different purposes. Bluetooth can handle a lot of data, but consumes battery life quickly and costs a lot more. BLE is used for applications that do not need to exchange large amounts of data and can therefore run on battery power for years at a cheaper cost. It all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with wireless technology.

The Working of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Communication

Beacons are small, cheap Bluetooth transmitters. The applications installed on your iPhone tend to listen to the signals transmitted by these beacons and generate a response accordingly when the phone comes into range. It is basically a one-way communication method. Beacons that want to be discovered by other beacons can send a broadcast or advertise the data packets in the specified intervals. For instance, if you pass a beacon in a shop the retailer’s app, assuming you have it installed, could display a special offer alert for you. On a visit to a museum, the museum’s app would provide information about the closest display, using your distance from beacons placed near exhibits to work out your position. As such iBeacon could be a much better option for in-door mapping – which GPS struggles with.

Does iBeacon tie you up in Ad-Bombardment Wherever you go?

The number of times you get notified from the ads depends on the number of applications you are keeping on


your phone, which make use of iBeacon. The beacons themselves won’t do much unless you have the corresponding app downloaded to your iOS device, so you should be able to browse in relative peace. The iOS doesn’t deliver region notifications until certain threshold conditions are met. Apple’s developer notes state the device has to cross an iBeacon boundary, move away from the boundary by a minimum distance, and remain at that minimum distance for at least 20 seconds before the notifications are reported. That should reduce the alerts at least a bit. But there is certainly a risk of fatigue if you’re being hassled all the way around the mall.

Avoiding the Unwanted Advertisements

You can opt out by changing permissions under location services for the relevant iBeacon application.

iBeacon in a Nutshell

A longer-term view is that technology landscapes are, as usual, in flux. The emergence of beacons is one component of a trend – the blending of digital virtual worlds and our physical one. The idea goes that the new layer of interaction cited by beacon advocates represents an early example of ‘Internet of Things’, and that forward-thinking companies have the chance to invest and play a market-leading role via these technology trends.

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