Apple’s iBeacon location sensing technology, based on the Bluetooth radio in your iPhone, promises to personalize the world around you. For users, this increasingly popular technology changes the question of “Where am I?” into the announcement “Here I am!”
An iBeacon is a Bluetooth Low Energy radio that broadcasts a signal in a given area, say the doorway to a clothing or grocery store. Your iPhone – if it has Bluetooth 4.0, and the radio is turned on, and iOS notifications and location services are active – can detect that signal and query the beacon. The beacon uses radio signal strength to figure out the phone’s location and can share that with iOS. Your phone shows an invitation from the beacon to enable something like “in-store notifications,” which involves sharing your Bluetooth-determined location.
If you accept, your phone downloads an app – over a Wi-Fi or cellular link – and the store can then send you stuff, such as coupons or special offers, or provide services such as buying advice, product ratings, or an updated loyalty card, as you move within range of different beacons throughout the store.