iOS 7 and iBeacon connect businesses to customers

Sections: iPhone OS, SDK and hacks, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad

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MLB iBeacon

Credit: Roger Cheng/CNET

CNET recently visited Citi Field for a demonstration of how Major League Baseball is using iBeacon to connect visitors to the ballpark. iBeacon is a new addition to iOS 7 and enables the iPhone 4S or later to get information from Bluetooth LE (low energy) sensors.

This can be used for location-based services that allow stores, restaurants, and other businesses to contact customers. A person could get a coupon when they enter a store, or it can keep track of how many times they have visited and give them a loyalty discount. It can play a video when a person looks at a statue or painting with more information about its history, or even be used to accept mobile payments. If the idea of being followed or watched makes you a bit squeamish, don’t worry; Major League Baseball is using an opt-in system where you have to be using their At the Ballpark app in order to receive messages.

There are other ways of doing the same thing, but they have weaknesses Bluetooth LE doesn’t have. One way is to use GPS, but that isn’t very accurate indoors and drains the battery quickly. QR codes are awkward to use and need a separate app to use them and the ability to take a good picture. Since you can set the range for each Bluetooth LE sensor individually, it provides a lot more flexibility as to who will gets contacted, whether they’re outside of a landmark or inside a store.

Learn more about iBeacon and how the MLB is using it at CNET, and watch the WWDC 2013 session video (What’s New in Core Location) for more information.

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