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iBeacons: Five Real World Applications of an Amazing New Technology

Updated on January 7, 2015


iBeacons are low-energy bluetooth transmitters which broadcast a signal and identifier to allow smartphones to determine their location relative to the iBeacon. For example, an iBeacon placed in the produce isle of a grocery store may trigger a notification on a customer's phone notifying them of a deal on BOGO lemons. By measuring the intensity of the Bluetooth signals received from a network iBeacons, a smartphone can accurately determine its precise location in the same manner that GPS receivers interact with GPS satellites. As the world around us connects to the "Internet of Things", the use of iBeacons will become more and more widespread, providing accurate indoor location information in retail stores, libraries, kitchens, garages, factories, hospitals, and more.

A Phillips Hue WiFi-Connected Bulb
A Phillips Hue WiFi-Connected Bulb

The Home of the Future

One of the most widespread uses of iBeacons is to combine them with WiFi connected light bulbs, such as Phillips Hue or LIFX bulbs. By linking an iPhone app to these bulbs, different lighting scenes can be triggered when a certain iBeacon comes into range of the phone. For example, a "light scene" could be triggered when the phone detects it has entered a bedroom containing a specific iBeacon, turning on the lights on a nightstand, and off once it leaves the room and loses contact with the iBeacon.

21st Century Pub Crawl

This novel pub-crawl with a techno-twist utilized iBeacons installed at the participating bars and an iPhone app made specifically for the events. Before the crawl started, users would download the app to their phones. The app pushed notifications to the pub-crawlers when in range of the iBeacons, such as crawl updates, drink specials, instructions for where to hop to next, and even a reminder to pay their tab when leaving the bar. The app also used the iBeacons to track and award points to pub-crawlers who hopped to the most bars.

Bonnaroo 2014 Music Festival

This summer, the Bonnaroo music festival began using iBeacons to track festival goers at the large outdoor event in Tennessee. Using iBeacons, Bonnaroo was able to determine the most popular stages, average miles walked by festival-goers, most congested areas, and average number of notifications pushed to phones in range of the beacons. On top of this, the iBeacons were used to notify concert-goers of events happening close to them in real time. Bonnaroo plans to use this data to improve the overall festival experience.

Museum Mine Field

In an exhibit at the New Museum in New York City, the United Nations sponsored a digital art piece called Sweeper, which was meant to raise awareness of the many forgotten and dangerous mine fields around the world by simulating a mine field with iBeacons hidden around the top floor of the museum. Persons would download the Sweeper App and walk around the space until they were notified by the app that they had detonated a mine i.e. walked too close to a concealed iBeacon.

Intern Tracking at the Office

One innovative company has took to tracking its interns using iBeacons so that employees can find interns that they are looking for, or make sure interns aren't going anywhere they aren't supposed to go. The company set up a network of iBeacons, which they dubbed Gopher Tracker, which they then can be used to triangulate the position of intern's phones, which have a custom app installed.






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