Apple recently introduced iBeacon, its location-tracking service, and we've been having fun playing with it. To learn the basics, check out our first blog post on iBeacon and find out what it is and how you can use it.
What is an iBeacon and Bluetooth LE (BLE)?
iBeacon are small, low power computers comprised of a CPU, battery, flash memory and Bluetooth LE. They have long battery life – most Beaconsavailable have an advertised battery life of 12-24 months – making them easy to install anywhere (no plugs needed) and easy to maintain. The broadcast range can be set between a few inches and 50+ meters.An iBeacon is too small to hold data itself, so it reaches out to the cloud or other servers to pull content down and push it out to the device.
The benefit of Bluetooth LE (BLE) in iBeacon
The problem with WiFi and GPS location position is the amount of battery life they drain from both the Beacon and the receiving device. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE – included in Bluetooth 4.0) uses very little battery power, which allows it to run continuously in the background while searching for signals.
iBeacon vs. Near Field Communication (NFC) for Payment
The current consensus is that Apple wants to use iBeacon technology to replace NFC communication for payment processing. First, the iBeacon would allow for touchless payment. Unlike NFC (think the Mobile Gas Speedpass), a customer doesn’t need to touch the phone (or iPad or iWatch) at an NFC payment station. The transaction can happen anywhere in an environment (up to about 200 feet from the iBeacon). Then, the secure fingerprint sensor introduced on iPhone 5S provides a slick mechanism to validate the user and process the payment.
Which Android and iOS Devices will iBeacon Work With?
To learn more about iBeacon and which devices are supported, check out Part 1 of this blog post.