Apple recently started using their iBeacon technology in their 254 U.S. retail stores. iBeacon is a location-based technology service that allows Apple to send information to the iPhones of their in-store customers.
This could include customer service notifications, special upgrade offers or other personalized marketing messages.
iBeacon uses Apple's version of Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE). This is a low power version of Bluetooth that is being quickly and widely adopted as way to allow smartphones, smart objects and other computer devices to communicate with one another when in relatively close proximity - within a retail store, for example.
The reason this is so important is the size and scale of Apple's reach. According to Tech Crunch, by 2014 250 million Apple smartphones and tablets will be capable of using iBeacon. Key quote from their article:
... every iOS device since the iPhone 4s and iPad 3rd gen is already capable of being either an iBeacon receiver or transmitter, as long as it’s properly configured.
The ability to provide persistent, aware, real-time, location-specific, personalized data delivered straight to a customer's smartphone has long been considered the holy grail of location-based marketing.
iBeacon provides this capability and unlike other technologies (NFC, for example), it's supported by 250 million mobile computing devices.
Another advantage iBeacon has is the growing number of businesses using Apple tablets as information kiosks, information panels and point of sale terminals. Almost all of these devices are iBeacon capable.
Bluetooth LE is being adopted by a wide variety of firms beyond Apple. Google has added support in their Android operating system, Qualcom has released a Bluetooth LE based iBeacon competitor and Shop Kick is using a version for its rewards system.
We believe Bluetoot LE is the winning location-based marketing technology platform. Small businesses interested in location-based marketing should investigate this technology and consider deployments over the next year to 18 months.h