Modern day Hansel and Gretel are walking through a shopping centre when Hansel reaches into his pocket and pulls out a slice of bread. “What are you doing?” exclaims Gretel. “I’m leaving a trail of crumbs behind so we can find our way back to the car,” responds Hansel. “Don’t be silly,” Gretel begins. “We both have smartphones and this shopping centre has iBeacons everywhere. We’ll never be lost again!”
Whenever you hear about iBeacons, it is almost always connected to mobile marketing or retail experiences, but the technology has many other uses.
What is an iBeacon?
Even though the terms ‘beacon’ and ‘iBeacon’ are used interchangeably, they are different. Beacons are Bluetooth-enabled, low-energy devices. iBeacon is Apple’s version of the beacon communication protocol specifically for iOS devices. Many beacons produced today are iBeacon compatible.
Beacons come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, some as small as a 10-cent coin or a micro USB, to larger, palm-sized devices. Like normal Bluetooth devices, beacons use radio frequency transmitters but consume much less battery power because they don’t require two-way communication. Beacons only broadcast their ID one-way to receiving devices and require location services and Bluetooth to be enabled along with a beacon-friendly app.
Think of a beacon like a lighthouse and a mobile phone app as a ship. The lighthouse is only capable of shining its light out to the ocean to notify ships of its existence. What the ships do with that information is entirely up to them. And that is what makes this technology so interesting.
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