With iOS 7, Apple quietly introduced a new feature, the iBeacon. iBeacons are intended to communicate with other iOS devices at a short distance. The consequence of this choice is that Apple does not go for NFC technology; it is becoming clearer every day that the guys from Cupertino have put their money on Bluetooth Low Energy. On the basis of this article, I want to show that this is a good choice for my favorite company, especially in combination with the possibilities that are already in their equipment.
The technology behind iBeacons is not new. In 2006 Nokia introduced Wibree, a new technology based on the already known Bluetooth. In 2010, Wibree was adopted in the Bluetooth standards under the name Bluetooth Low Energy, also known as Bluetooth Smart. Nokia immediately started using Bluetooth Smart well, for example in the health, fitness, safety and home entertainment systems. That is one of the reasons why today all modern Operating Systems support the protocol and Bluetooth SIG predicts that by 2018 90% of all devices will support BLE.
Competitor of the NFC technology
In addition to BLE, you naturally have the well-known Near Field Communication. The NFC standard is only effective between 0 and 10 cm. BLE has a larger range and you can actually do the same with NFC. Because of the larger range, plus the option to combine several beacons, BLE offers many more application possibilities. This makes BLE a good competitor for NFC technology, but not – as some claim – it’s killer. Enough applications remain, such as tags.
BLE in retail: consumer behavior
Companies are committed to advertising: the most logical and cost-effective application of the technology behind iBeacon is therefore currently primarily available in retail. As a result, the applications of BLE that you now encounter in daily life are not exciting enough in my eyes. With this, entrepreneurs want to gain more insight into the consumer and his behavior in the stores, in order to encourage him to make (more) purchases. But there is so much more possible.
Improve the UX of your website or app How user-friendly is your website? Do you drive away (unconscious) visitors? In our User Experience (UX) training you will receive tips & tricks for optimum usability and accessibility.
As Evert and Guido already wrote, the Internet of Things is emerging (or secretly among us). All ‘things’ around us that come in connection with the internet and therefore become ‘smart’. But these devices remain separate entities, partly because they do not know that they are close to each other.
The phone is virtually the only device that you always have with you, so iBeacon is the missing link for Apple to fill this gap. Through iBeacon, your phone searches for a connection with all the places around you and creates a connection between devices, your environment and you as a person.
Applications from later
With this use of BLE technology, I can imagine that more exciting applications will arise from this new possibility. I expect Apple to take the next step: total integration with sensors. Think aloud to me. We start on familiar territory.
Example 1: the retailer.
We take a beacon, the compass, GPS, gyroscope, and the accelerometer. We place the beacon in the middle of a square. There is a bakery in the west, a bicycle shop in the east and a terrace in the north. We use the GPS to do rough positioning. When we get close to the square, to save the battery, your smartphone will only actively sniff at the iBeacon.
Once on the square, the app knows where it is and can call on the other sensors. Which direction we are heading, for example, the compass. With the accelerometer (and somewhat the gyroscope) we know how fast we are going. From this, your mobile can estimate whether someone is walking, running, cycling or sitting in the car. We can skip cars in this example, but the person walking is given a specific message from the terrace when it is heading north. The person who walks to the west will receive a nice bread offer. The cyclist will be notified by the bicycle shop regardless of the direction.
Example 2: light!
We take three beacons, an ambient light sensor (A.L.S.) and the gyroscope. Thanks to the three beacons, your device can use geo-fencing pr.
Example 3: meetings
We take a beacon, Touch ID and the clock or agenda. You have reserved a room at your office. Due to ISO rules, all rooms that can be reserved are locked as standard because they contain expensive equipment. An approved reservation of the space is in your diary.
Fifteen minutes in advance you arrive at the door of the room. The iPhone recognizes the space and checks whether you have rented it and then also for this time. The iPhone sees that it matches the data of the calendar. By means of the Touch-ID, the door will unlock after correct verification.
Example 4: public transportation
For the latter example, we only take an iBeacon again. RET has recently announced that it will travel on the account. You will now have to check in with your OV chip card. Checking in could also be much easier by simply walking into the station. Why still hold your card against something, while walking through a gate would be enough.
The iPhone has a whole range of sensors onboard. And if the rumors are true, the iPhone will soon know what your heart rate is in combination with your blood pressure through the iWatch. If all sensors are combined with iBeacon it is literally “Sky is the limit”!
Privacy an issue?
The privacy of smartphone users is, of course, an important point of attention. Will beacons now constantly and unsolicited follow us and harass us? That’s not too bad. Links with beacons are only possible after the approval of the user of a smartphone. He will first have to download the app, give it permission to let the app determine its location and turn on the location provisions. As a smartphone user, you, therefore, remain in control of your visibility for beacons.
An extension of user experience
I see the use of iBeacon as one that brings us closer to the realization of the Internet of Things. We can extend the online user experience. The different devices around us can connect to each other because they know that they are in the area. We are going to experience our environment “more naturally”.
The right technology for tomorrow
This technology can make things around you relevant, just as functionalities get the new meaning at the right time. This can be a considerable added value when designing and designing apps. After the minimal design of iOS 7 with the emphasis on functionalities, the technology can now be purely focused on real-time use.
You will no longer have to search for a specific function and activate it manually. No, the app knows where you are and what you need and shows you the relevant functionality.
In my eyes, it’s the smartest choice from Apple to go with iBeacon for BLE, instead of NFC. With this, they have made their hardware more valuable for the coming years.