iBeacon: How Is It Related to Bluetooth (BLE)? Will iBeacon Work For Payments? (Part 2)

November 27, 2013

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 Beacons available have an advertised battery life of 12-24 months – making it easy to install them 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 to push out to the device.

The benefit of Bluetooth LE (BLE) in iBeacon

The problem with WiFi and GPS location position is that these services drain the battery life of the device – both the Beacon and the receiving device such as your phone. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE – included in Bluetooth 4.0) uses very little battery power. This allows BLE to run continuously in the background looking for signals.

iBeacon vs. Near Field Communication (NFC) for Payment

The current onsensus opinion is that Apple is looking to use iBeacon technology to replace NFC communication for payment. 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) to a NFC payment station. The transaction can happen up anywhere in an environment (up to about 200 feet from the iBeacon). Second, the secure fingerprint sensor introduced on iPhone 5S provides a slick mechanism to validate the user and process the payment.

iBeacon: What Devices are Supported?

Apple added iBeacon support in iOS7 and it is supported on:

  • iPhone 4S
  • iPhone 5
  • iPhone 5S
  • iPhone 5C
  • iPad 3+
  • iPad mini
  • iPad Touch 5G+

iBeacons will work with any device with Bluetooth LE. It does not need to be an Apple device. Some Android models includes:

  • Galaxy S3
  • Galaxy S4
  • Galaxy S4 Mini
  • Note 2

iBeacon: What is it?

iBeacon is a location-tracking service introduced by Apple at the 2013 Developer conference. The functionality is built into iOS7. The iBeacon uses Bluetooth Low Energy (LE or BLE) to allow the pinpointing of devices within an environment – a store, a hospital, a hotel, an amusement park. You can think of iBeacon as extremely accurate GPS for indoor environments.

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