At WWDC 2013, Apple announced the presence of ‘ iBeacons’ which utilizes Bluetooth Low Energy(a.k.a “Bluetooth Smart”), and could be very beneficial for Retail stores because, all it requires is a Beacon and the respective store’s app, which is essentially a wireless info. transmitter, which practically converts a specified physical space ( a store’s space, let’s say!)into beacon’s space.Thereafter, once you, as the consumer enter the store with your iOS 7-running iPhone, the store’s app would display say, coupons, and once you’re standing in front of Product X, Special offers/promotions related to Product X.
Also, say you walk past Store Y, you’d get a notification about a certain offer related to store Y!
‘ Interactive tours’ are also possible, thanks to proper location-based tracking.
Needless to say, mobile payment(Contactless payment) is easily possible with iBeacons.
The major advantage of iBeacons over NFC is the sheer distance which can be covered by iBeacons(through Bluetooth Low Energy) i.e 50metres, as opposed to a mere 4cm in case of NFC(thus, requiring each ‘product’ to have its OWN NFC tag). Also, the transmitter’s coin-battery has the potential to run for upto 2 years in one go.However, it’s worth noting that iBeacons are costlier than NFC chips.
Where’s Google again?
Well, unlike Apple, Google has constantly pushed & supported NFC, with platform support for Bluetooth Low-Energy being brought in Android 4.3(unveiled and officially released barely 2months ago) although many OEMs have put in support for Bluetooth Low-Energy in their flagship phones, like Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One, etc ; much prior to Google’s platform support for it. Android Beam and S-Beam continue to play a major role as far as low-range communication is concerned. Moreover, no API or SDK for an ‘iBeacons-equivalent’ has been released for Android. Apple’s developer support may pretty much pay off now as it usually does!
All in all, it’s almost certain that in the near future, , it’s going to be much, much faster, simpler and easier to buy your favorite product at your favorite store. Courtesy? At the time of writing, it seems to be Bluetooth Low-Energy-equipped iBeacons!