Apple’s ‘iBeacon’ sends notifications to retail store customers

Apple has added "iBeacons" to its U.S. retail stores that will send information to users' devices over Bluetooth as they walk around.
(Taylor Hill / Getty Images)
<i>This post has been corrected, as indicated below.</i>

Apple has rolled out its “iBeacon” indoor location software at its 254 U.S. stores. The technology sends notifications to customers within the store with information that might be relevant to their interests.

When enabled by the customer, iBeacon uses a Bluetooth connection to push a signal that detects iOS devices within its proximity. Depending on where customers are in the store, different iBeacon devices will send targeted messages to the customer.

For example, iBeacon will be able to notify customers when their product order is ready. IBeacon will also be able to ask users if they want to check if they are eligible for a phone upgrade when they walk past iPhone displays.

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Also, iBeacon will be able to send other kinds of messages too, such as product and event information, according to the Associated Press, which first wrote about the technology.

The AP report said Apple’s flagship New York City store is equipped with about 20 iBeacon devices, some of which are just iPhones and iPads. The Apple devices are able to use iBeacon thanks to new software that was included by Apple in iOS 7, according to the AP.

Apple told the AP that the iBeacon technology has the potential for use beyond retail. IBeacon could one day be used to send information at parks, museums and other types of indoor locations.

Customers who want to try iBeacon the next time they go to an Apple Store will need to enable Bluetooth on their Apple device as well as download the Apple Store app.


However, iBeacon may not work right away. tested the new technology at two of Apple’s New York stores but they were unable to get it to work. Even when they asked Apple Store employees for help, iBeacon did not seem to function as described by the AP.

It’s only the first day, so glitches and difficulties aren’t a huge surprise. But Apple might want to fine-tune the system soon.

[For the record, 1:46 p.m. Dec. 6: An earlier version of this post said iBeacon tracks customers’ wherabouts within Apple Stores. Apple has clarified that iBeacon cannot track customers.]



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