Industry Insights – iBeacons


Introducing our inaugural industry insight report! Once a month we will be giving our insight in to the latest mobile technology and industry trends.  We shall begin with a look in to the upcoming new hardware everybody is talking about, the ibeacon!

This is an exciting feature for iOS7 and what some industry experts are describing as Apple’s secret weapon. Sometimes referred to as ‘motes’, the ibeacon is a Low Energy Bluetooth device transmitting data to the surrounding area which once picked up from a smartphone can trigger particular content on a responding mobile app. The ibeacon can be set to different distances allowing apps to be triggered at certain points when a user is in a store.

This new addition to the mobile world has already been installed in Apple app stores in the US. Apple has installed around 20 beacons in to each of their stores which work in tandem with the ‘Apple Store’ app. An authorised app is necessary for the ibeacon to work, for example shoppers who want to experience the ibeacons in US Apple stores will require the Apple Store app on their phone.

The device was branded ibeacon by apple though the device can be used Android smartphones with Bluetooth capability.

The possibilities of how this technology can be used are huge. Currently the Apple store are using the beacons to alert users when a genius is ready for appointment, notify users of upcoming talks, provide product information and notify users when their product is ready for collection. These principles can be easily adapted to other environments particularly retail, museum, travel, stadium, festival and cinema environments. The device is most likely to have the greatest impact on the retail industry with Macey currently hosting a private trial of the technology.

So how are ibeacons different from NFC? Firstly, both devices use different methods on transmission with NFC using wifi and beacons using LE Bluetooth.

The 70m range of an ibeacon is greater than NFC’s range allowing the device to trigger mobile apps more accurately than the 20cm range of an NFC tag. Not all smartphones have NFC chips however most mainstream smartphones on the market have Bluetooth capability making ibeacons more universal and allowing companies to target a greater audience. NFC’s payment capability has been very successful in the mobile and banking industry, it will be interesting to see how ibeacon payments will compete. From a resourcing point of view less beacons would be required than NFC tags. Despite some noticeable differences both of these technologies are great and can be applied for different scenarios.

If your company would like to learn more about ibeacons and how this technology can help your business engage customers then please get in touch!