Rick Makerson has been testing iBeacons for several months and recently presented some key takeaways for the BlueFletch team. Here are some of the highlights:
What Are iBeacons?
Have you ever wished your phone could receive special discounts based on your location or help you find a pair of lost sunglasses?
Indoor Positioning Systems or iBeacons (as Apple trademarked them) are low-powered, low-cost transmitters that can notify devices of their presence via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).
Many retailers are implementing iBeacons to help drive sales and create interactive experiences around the world.
Who makes iBeacons?
Â 1) Estimote
- An Estimote is a small, wireless device, sometimes also called a “mote”. When placed in a physical space, it broadcasts tiny radio signals to smart devices.
- Shopkick gives you rewards and offers simply for walking into stores. It is currently the most used App in retail and 4th in overall reach alongside Ebay & Amazon.
3) Raspberry Pi
Want to build your own iBeacon to use for development with Raspberry Pi? Learn more here. You’ll need basic Linux command line skills to build, but it’s great for you DIYers.
3 Common iBeacon Misconceptions:
Â 1) iBeacons are an apple product.
- The term iBeacon is a trademark of apple that also defines product compliance, but it’s simply a protocol running over BLE.
2) iBeacons won’t work with Android devices.
- Remember, it’s just a protocol.
- You can actually implement iBeacons yourself using Androids Bluetooth LE Guide, using the Radius Networks SDK….. or you could always wait for Google’s ______?
3) iBeacons are stealing my privacy!
- Generally, no. It depends on which Apps are on your phone/tablet/wearable and whether you have opted-in.
- Most iBeacon devices are transmit only, but some can detect/store IDs and use them for monitoring dwell and flow
What Matters to App Developers
- Your phone/tablet can be a beacon (only via App functionality). The App emits an iBeacon (iOS7 only at this stage app must have foregrounded screen on or roll-your own with CoreBlueTooth).
- All iBeacons ship with pre-programmed IDâ€™s which you should be able to re-program, via an App on Mobile or PC with manufacturer tools.
Location Opt-in is required on iPhone.
- Bluetooth needs to be on.
- ‘Opt-in’ to location services for the App.
- Generally your App is waiting on callbacks for predefined UUIDS.
Location Opt-in is NOT required on Android.
- Bluetooth needs to be on.
- Generally your app is waiting for callbacks for predefined UUIDs. There’s a wildcard in Radius SDK but it returns nulls for ‘region’ parameters (UUID/Major/Minor).
- Sniffing would need to implement at BLE level.
- Radius Implementation polls from the App space. Meaning there is potentially more battery drain than an iPhone.
- Polls every 30 seconds
- PRO library has some battery saving
iBeacons: Final Thoughts
- iBeacons are still very new and the landscape/implementations are maturing- just give it time.
- Security concerns should focus on anti-spoofing.
- Maintenance and deployments will hopefully improve with time.
Next week we will be showing some unique examples of retailers currently using iBeacons on the BlueFletch Blog. What are some of your favorites you’ve seen?