As the official launch of iOS 7 draws tantalisingly close, the little talked-about iBeacon feaure shows a lot of promise.
iBeacon uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to deliver updates and information to iOS phones or tablets when the user is within a 30 metre radius of a geofence.
OK, so what’s a geofence?
A virtual perimeter that relates to a real world location (entry gate, ticket office, museum exhibit, etc).
In this context a geofence can be set up for a specific room / location, and small form factor beacons serve content to the iOS 7 device via an inaudible sonic signal.
Setting up geofences is relatively cost effective (around $200 for ten), and SDK support means developers can add the functionality to apps.
Why is this a big deal?
Well it’s all down to the implementation and user uptake, but it does have benefits over other geolocation services by being baked into the OS.
Much as I love foursquare you still need to download the app, and physically check in. Fine for the committed, but it does create a barrier to users.
Throw in the ability to save content to Passbook and it’s looking very sweet indeed.
But won’t it be annoying?
Yes if implemented badly. The key thing is that the service would be opt-in and should respect privacy guidelines. Users can always switch off bluetooth.
Personally, if the marketing messages were targeted down to the meter and told me to turn to my right to see a relevant offer I’d find that useful as opposed to intrusive.
You wouldn’t want a beacon located round every corner, but used sparingly and in a targeted way they could work very well.
Will it take off?
It’s really too early to say, but if deployed intelligently then the chances are good. Passbook hasn’t hit its stride yet, but more killer features like this and improved QR code integration in iOS 7 and NFC support mean things are moving forwards rapidly.