Apple has introduced a new way to get right ‘in your face’ the next time you visit one of its retail shops.
On Friday, Apple turned on its iBeacon, an indoor positioning system that will serve as your personal concierge upon stepping into its Apple Stores. iBeacon wil guide you to the place where you can pick up your purchases, or if you just want to browse through some of its products it can deliver information that Apple hopes would entice consumers to purchase more iDevices.
iBeacon works like a GPS system, except it all takes place indoors. It uses Bluetooth to track your whereabouts in the store, and will only work if you have already downloaded the appropriate Apple Store app and allow it to track you. If not, then you won’t get tracked even if you spend 10 hours roaming inside one of Apple’s stores.
Aside from helping you navigating through the store, iBeacon will also let you know if you should upgrade your device, assisting you through the entire process. It’ll even help you get your old device appraised, so you’ll know how much money you need to add to buy the latest model. And if a device is not available in store, but you’ve already purchased it, you can even keep track of the shipment so you’ll know when to come back to the store.
It could be said that iBeacon is an intrusion of your privacy, but that’s not really the case as it only tracks those who want to be tracked. If you don’t want to be tracked, then just opt out of the service. Also, it might make some people uncomfortable as it may appear that Apple is pressuring you to purchase a new device even if you don’t want to.
Though it might appear that Apple just wants to help you get around its stores and know its products and services better, the main point of iBeacon is actually to study consumer purchasing behavior. iBeacon could also be a gateway to a wider tracking and navigation reach for Apple as the company could offer the same technology to other retail shops, or even deliver more information to people while they’re out and about on the street or visiting other establishments, such as art galleries or museums. For example, iBeacon could deliver information about the artist who painted the picture you’re looking at, its history, when it was created and other interesting facts.
In a previous article, we mentioned that Apple could get a leg up in the mapping race against Google if it acquired Wifarer, a company that provides a highly accurate, indoor positioning system to venues such as airports, shopping centers, museums, convention centers, hospitals, and universities. Wifarer’s technology could really help a company like Apple layer more personalized services into its mapping software.
If Apple wants a more robust indoor positioning system, it won’t hurt to consider Wifarer for its next acquisition.