David Papp Blog

Indoor Proximity Sensing with iBeacons

The iBeacon is a location monitoring technology that alerts the apps on your phone when you are near or have left a location. It works with low-energy Bluetooth technology that acts like an indoor GPS that is also very cost effective. Much like a buoy, it can detect Bluetooth signals around it to send relevant information in real time to enabled devices.

Uses for the iBeacon

The iBeacon technology has been applied to retail spaces to inform customers about a particular product and/or deals that are available as they approach it. Aside from location-based marketing and customer service, the technology is also foreseen in smart homes. Since it’s contextually aware of your location, this enables your home to automatically cater to your needs in real-time. With the iBeacon technology, your lights can turn on and off as you enter and leave a room, for example, or the TV will turn on to play the favourite shows you missed. This is very similar to how Bill Gates’s house is all rigged up (which he did prior to smartphones and apps). His guests wear pins that allow the house to track their location displaying digital artwork to your liking on the walls as you walk, turning on lights ahead and off behind you, following you with your favorite music through the room speakers, and adjusting temperature to your comfort.

iBeacon’s non-retail applications

iBeacon’s proximity-based technology can also be of educational value to be used in museums or schools to support learning mechanisms. It can also help make healthcare more efficient as health professionals or visitors can see the status of a patient in real time through their mobile device. Other uses of the iBeacon include improving the diffusion of significant information, which helps boost efficiency in travel, tourism, events and conferences. The tech can also help individuals with visual impairment as they navigate around a space. All of this just goes to show how much of a positive impact this technology can make in people’s everyday lives.

If you have an iOS7 device, you may start utilizing iBeacon today by turning on your Bluetooth and accepting location services. With the opportunities this technology provides, third party manufacturers have now released beacons that can send messages to iOS7 devices. We can expect more companies to bank on the potential of this technology for the mainstream consumer in the near future.

21 thoughts on “Indoor Proximity Sensing with iBeacons”

  1. I knew from the name right away this was an Apple product. A lot of users including myself have Bluetooth turned off for security reasons. I hope people use due diligence when relying on this technology, if you remember when central locking systems came out criminals were able to capture the signal and unlock your car.

  2. I expected the world to be all shaken up by NFC, which quite didn’t happen.
    iBeacon certainly looks more promising since it is “more natural” in the way it interacts with humans and devices.

    The premise for all these newer technologies is slightly different from just rolling them out the window to see the magic. They are creating a need in the market while trying to become the path breaker to address the need. This problem creates an interesting chicken-egg conundrum.

    I have not tested iBeacon yet, Android fan here. However, I will keep an eye open on how the future turns out.

  3. These are the kind of features I miss from Apple as I made the switch to Android.
    While at first read it almost scares you how much technology is keeping an eye on seemingly personal aspects of you, but in due time I think we’ll become more and more comfortable with it. If anything, it will be a “how did we live without it?”

    I may be wrong, but wasn’t iBeacon also going to be able to detect when you enter say a Target store and immediately beam you the latest offerings or sale right to your phone? I think this is just in the pilot phase right now, but it could prove useful in the future.

  4. Wow Willski, I did not know that! I love technology. But, the criminals always mess it up some how. We do need to practice ways to protect ourselves and being smarter. This article and you have just made me a little bit more knowledgeable!

  5. It’s too bad that this requires bluetooth to use, because bluetooth will kill your phone’s battery life if you always have it on. And it’ll probably prevent your phone from going into sleep-mode too while it’s running, which eats even more of the battery.

    There are some things I’d want to do if my phone was location-aware however. For example have it turn off the ringtone when it detects that I’m in bed, so I won’t get woken up if I’m sleeping, or have it unlock my computer if I’m at my desktop or lock it otherwise.

  6. iBeacon seems really promising and useful. It’s really unique usage that it could turn the lights on or off as we walk in or our of the room. It’s actually helping to save energy. Really great product by Apple.

  7. The iBeacon seems very interesting. I would love to see how it affects learning environments. We may even begin to see a few games that make use of the iBeacon. It’s also not a shock that other companies are trying to copy Apple.

  8. In the article there was some mention of the potential health care and travel & tourism applications for iBeacon. During stressful times in the airport when one’s flight may be arriving late, or any other cause for delays, there would be immediate notification.

    As for health care, knowing everything from recent test quickly via a mobile device, seeing a family birth happen in real time and even watching crucial moments after an emergency situation can all be life altering events.

    Perhaps this new technology could even help us fight the criminals better and bring some peace of mind back to society as a whole.

  9. Having the ability to turn it on and off for certain locations would probably be the best benefit/feature to help people feel more comfortable with it. I see it being tremendously helpful in all of the listed applications and I’m sure even more that are in the works.

  10. I heard about this new technology as well. People in the future are probably going to use it mainly for advertising, in my opinion. It would be really convenient for a store to place iBeacons inside them so that customers get notified of any nearby products. Ingenious, I must say.

  11. This technology is certainly amazing, and maybe it’s even a little scary sometimes. However I’m an Android user here, and despite the promise that this technology holds, I’m still waiting to see how effective and reliable this is. The technology works, no doubt, but since it’s still relatively new, I can imagine it’s still not stable and will have its fair share of bugs. From what I’ve read, it’s already been implemented at Hearthrow Airport and other places and retailers, but I’ll have to wait and see to see what Apple can do with the technology and expand it as well as making it convenient. Maybe this is a personal thing, but I don’t really like turning on Location, both on Android and Apple. The first is for obvious privacy reasons, the second is because it drains battery like there’s no tomorrow, and I’m not exaggerating. The use of iBeacon, which is constantly sending and receiving Bluetooth signals in addition to turning on location, will drain the users battery quite a bit, I presume.

  12. The applications of a device like this are almost infinite. I love what Bill Gates did with his house involving the Bluetooth devices. I imagine the police force could potentially use these devices to help locate troopers and better asses hostage situations using the location finding services.

  13. You made me interested enough in Bill Gates house to do some research on that subject hehe
    I can see the value to this technology, but as with all such tech, people need to some some common sense when using it.

  14. Wow this is amazing. It’s great to see new uses for Bluetooth technology. I could imagine this being a good accessory to price tags, maybe it’ll take you to the products website and let you get more detailed information on it if it’s something like a piece of hardware for example. They shouldn’t make it the only option though, since some people still don’t have phones…

  15. This sounds cool and dangerous at the same time. Opening your bluetooth is a major danger already so tracking your location isn’t going to help. But it’s a pretty sweet piece of technology.

  16. I wish my house worked the way Bill Gates is set up! That would be awesome 🙂 This technology is very interesting. I would be interested in getting tips or coupons based on my location. One thing that worries me is the drain on battery life due to using Bluetooth.

  17. This is very interesting. I’ve heard of many different products like these, for example information screens that detect what you look at the most and save a recognition of your face in order to determine your interests and display something that will catch your attention when you pass by. Many believe that this method of personalized advertising is pervasive, but I do not mind. I might as well get ads that are tendered to my needs than ones that make no sense.

  18. I’ve always thought a cool idea would be ring that it based on this. You wear a ring that has a small transmitter built in like these iBeacons, and your phone can only be unlocked if it is within range of these beacon. That way when you have your phone in your pocket or hand it works normally, but if you leave it at the bar or someone steals it, they won’t be able to unlock it, even if they know your password or PIN. Doesn’t seem like it would be too hard to develop.

    • This is the basics of 2 Factor Authentication. Even with this, a thief could steal the ring pretty easily. Apollo Robbins demonstrates this pretty easily in his TED talk, where he pickpockets a guy on stage, gets his wallet, watch, and phone without him noticing, all with the power of misdirection of attention. It wouldn’t be too hard to develop, but once you misplace that second factor, you’ll need some way to reset your phone.

  19. I’ve always wanted to build and live in a smart home. I’m guessing devices like the ibeacons cater to people like me. I hope we get more companies investing in these kinds of gadgets and more demand from consumers so that the price goes down.

  20. These could be cool. I am eagerly waiting for these to be commonplace, since I am already using the Google Now’s feature by which you can set reminders to trigger when you arrive at a certain place. I bet you could use smartwatches in combination with this to make some really sweet stuff. I can’t wait for the near-future. Or the more distant future. Or the time I’ll be really old.

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