POV: Apple iBeacon

MINDSHARE POINT OF VIEW – Apple announced iBeacon as a feature of iOS 7 at the WWDC in June. Apple has given no details about it and it was only mentioned in the keynote once, but it could have a profound impact on the retail-to-mobile, contextual and in-store shopping experience.

The Facts: What You Need To Know

  • iBeacon is Apple’s branded name for a new Bluetooth Low Energy technology standard and will be included on all new Apple phones.
  • iBeacons are also Bluetooth-enabled micro-locations systems –  actual physical transmitters. Think of them as NFC on steroids. They not only have a better range than NFC transmitters, up to 50m against just a few inches, but they also enable a wider range of data services. They can be used by retailers, museums and businesses to serve highly relevant interactions to their customers’ iPhones and iOS devices – from coupons and personalized pricing to actual payment.
  • The iOS 7 SDK (software development kit) features iBeacon. The iBeacon functionality will be built into apps for iOS 7, meaning that if a consumer has your app and it is iBeacon-enabled, an iBeacon will alert the app that your customer is in a particular physical location and allow you to serve them offers.


Customized location-based communication. Customized, in-store retail-to-mobile marketing is much closer to being a reality than we think. The difference between failed past attempts through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or NFC is that those technologies were never adopted in a scalable way. Through Apple’s app ecosystem with roughly 1M apps and almost 500MM iOS devices sold to-date, mass scale is now attainable. For example, imagine walking into your local store with an iPhone 5S or 5C.  If that store has enabled an iBeacon zone, it can transmit customized coupons or even walking directions to the aisle where a particular item is located. It can prompt a customer with special promotions or a personalized messages and recommendations based on their current location or past history with the company. (Source: GigaOM 9.10.13)

The technology will not be hard to integrate and will have scale. Apple is not taking on the burden of producing and developing its own iBeacons. Instead, it is creating an essentially semi-open but still Apple-walled-garden for the iBeacon platform by creating the standards for the technology and embedding it into its OS, then inviting other vendors to build the actual iBeacon devices.  For a clearer picture of how iBeacons can work, here is a demo imagined by iBeacon vendor/start-up Estimote:

Right place, right message, right context takes on a different meaning. In the internet of things and the age of context, iBeacon can bring to life the ‘right message, right time’ dream for marketers, at scale, and personalized to individual shoppers. It can even facilitate payments so store wait times may be a thing of the past (Think of the current experience of paying through your iPhone when checking out of a physical Apple store).


The barrier to entry and long term impact are yet to be experienced. This is especially true when one considers that iBeacons can run for two years on a single coin battery charge, come with an accelerometer, flash memory, a powerful processor and have Bluetooth connectivity. The age of context has barely just begun.  

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