Apple's iBeacon to propel micro-location revolution

February 11, 2014 //By Julien Happich
Apple's iBeacon to propel micro-location revolution
The vast majority of smartphones being Bluetooth-enabled, leveraging this technology to provide contextual information to end-users does make sense for retailers and other services in the public space.

Of course, there is already NFC (near field communication) implemented as radio frequency identification tags that can be embedded into product packaging or as RFID stickers that can give product-specific information, pricing and speed up the check-out. But NFC does require the user to get very close (a few centimetres) for the wireless transfer of information, and not all phones support NFC, the iPhones representing a big chunk of those NFC-less units.

Quick Response (QR) codes printed on labels, posters or packages are another way to engage with consumers. These 2D bar codes, once captured with a smartphone camera, will directly take your browser to the company’s website or will pull other specific marketing content.

But both NFC and QR codes require an action from the smartphone users who have to look for an identifiable logo to tap or scan. This is not intuitive and many would-be customers will miss the additional marketing package altogether.

According to Jakub Krzych, Co-Founder and CEO of Polish startup Estimote, both NFC tags and QR codes ask too much from the end-user. “From a user-experience perspective, these technologies create too much friction”, says Krzych who develops Bluetooth Smart-based beacons for retailers to implement micro-location marketing and couponing within stores.

Developed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), Bluetooth Smart is based on the Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy radio with additional general attributes-based profiles such as Find Me and Proximity to enable what Suke Jawanda, CMO of Bluetooth SIG describe as “the internet of my things”.

“There is no reason to connect everything directly to the internet” explains Jawanda who sees power issues with such schemes.

Instead, you can have peripheral devices, appliances and beacons broadcast their ID and their distance to surrounding smartphones which are well connected to retrieve more information from the cloud. The new protocol stack also allows indoor real-time tracking. Triangulation and precise geo-location is worked out in software by the


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