Apple iBeacon Is a New Location Tracking Alternative to GPS

Apple iBeacon Is a New Location Tracking Alternative to GPS

Apple’s new iBeacon and other future beacon technology could transform how your business communicates with customers and employees.

Beacons use low-powered radio signals to allow smart devices to communicate with them. The iBeacon, specifically, allows iPhones to communicate via Low Energy Bluetooth. Indoor spots with poor cellular service and where GPS doesn’t always work are ideal locations for beacons, Business Insider notes. The iBeacon was included in Apple’s iOS7 update. And iPhones with Bluetooth 4.0 can act as both receivers and transmitters.

Apple introduced physical iBeacons at its retail stores recently. Several are strategically placed throughout the store and as a customer walks around, the beacons trip off messages to that customer’s iPhone. A customer can even scan an item they want and pay for it from their phone using the Apple Store app. The app too uses beacon technology, according to information at the Apple website.

In another example, if a grocery store has beacons placed in specific aisles, when a customer walks in range of that beacon, they can be informed via a mobile device of products on sale. Advertisers are even arranging with grocery retailers to have spots played on a phone while a customer is walking through a particular aisle, according to a recent Bloomberg report.

Kirsten Osolind, President and COO of re:invention consulting, observes:

“Beacon technology will improve the way consumers use smart phones and transform numerous industries by solving the indoor geo-location challenge. It has great potential to facilitate better mobile payments thereby disrupting the whole credit card ecosystem because of its range.”

BestFit Mobile, a company that aims to improve how brick-and-mortar retailers use Low Energy Bluetooth to their advantage, adds more business applications for beacon technology in a recent statement:

“The right apps also help retailers gain significant insights into how customers shop, what brand decisions they make, and how they convert. These are the same advantages online retailers have enjoyed for years, but brick-and-mortar stores were unequipped to leverage—until now.”

There are a few drawbacks to fully utilizing beacons as a means of communicating with customers or employees. The biggest is that for it to work, the intended recipient of the message must have your business’ app installed on his or her phone. The customer must also have a Bluetooth radio on and agree to accept messages from your beacons.

Using Smartphone Photo via Shutterstock


Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor for Small Business Trends and the Head of Content Partnerships. A journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional and online media, he is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press, covering his hometown.

6 Reactions
  1. Honestly, I am quite new to beacons. I know that they are using them as transmitters of some sort but I don’t really get how they work. But as you said here, it allows smartphones to communicate with it. I guess this can be a good transmitter device that can allow the transfer of information I guess. But how does that differ with ordinary mobile phone signal?

  2. Everyone is talking about using iBeacons to send deals to consumers. We have so many ways to get deals that they will eventually be too much. iBeacons can be used for so many other things.

    At Mahana ( for example, we are using them to automate things that consumers used to have to do manually.

    Anyone interested in iBeacons should come to the Beacon Meetup at SXSWi. Robert Scoble is the keynote.

  3. Nice Post!

    I’m currently involved in an iBeacon Proof-of-Concept for a big box european retailer, and the most significant project-item regards the shopping-experience.
    Engaging shoppers too much means disturbing them, so you have to determine the optimal “interaction” trade-off.

    I published a white-paper about iBeacons-at-work titled “iBeacon Bible”; feel free to download it from my blogsite; it can be valuable if you’re involved in this technology or just want to know more.

    Andy Cavallini

  4. iBeacons enable brick & mortar retailers to gain back the upper hand they lost to online retailers like Amazon. People would begin to ‘love’ to shop in malls and stores again. It would become an “experience” shopping in malls again.

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