The computer world article says this is uncharacteristic of Apple, but it’s not. Apple bought WiFi SLAM, and their indoor location strategy was made clear and similar to Google’s. They will open APIs so developers can build apps with Location services - the big thing people have been waiting for years. iBeacons is the same idea but using Bluetooth for proximity. My apple friends won’t comment if iBeacons came from WiFiSlam, but let’s assume they follow the same strategy.
Forbes saying why this is big.
Remember Apple cares much more about Apples own customers than big retailers. They are releasing iBeacons on the 4S and 5 and 5C and 5S and iPads. There is no NFC in the new iPhone (or any model) so they are setting the standard for location services with BLE (Bluetooth low energy). NFC requires a physical touch in many cases, which is even less user friendly than Bluetooth is today. Also they don’t have NFC in every device already, iBeacons will work on most Apple devices.
I still have reservations about Bluetooth for location. (most people don’t even use Bluetooth today while WiFi is ubiquitous and used at both home and work). BLE and iBeacons means Bluetooth can be used for “proximity” location services without draining battery. That assumes suddenly people will leave Bluetooth powered on in favor of added benefits. Good thing iOS 7 makes it easier to enable Bluetooth with a simple swipe-touch instead of 3-4 touches.
Companies like Square that are making money in mobile payments with card swipes, are probably going to move to add iBeacons to replace card swipes.
Google Ventures investor Don Dodge told me he is most interested in the startup Estimote. I encourage you to read up on them. Dodge was an investor in Wifi SLAM. Dodge is now invested into Bytelight, location services using lightbulbs and smartphone cameras. (Phillips is working on similar technology to Bytelight.)
Apple has a vision of iPads as registers and iPhones as wallets. It’s easy to see their vision when you walk into their stores.
Don’t forget that Google Wallet is pretty amazing, and it could compete with Apples iBeacons. I used it today to pay with NFC at Macy’s. My iPhone with iOS7 was jealous. It’s already everywhere, and Google already tested physical GoogleWallet credit cards linked to GW accounts. That was leaked in November but never announced at IO. The Google card would be “amazing” and kill any Bluetooth based solution. Imagine you only had to carry a single card that can act as any of your cards.
That said, Google and Apple aren’t the only players opening up APIs for mobile payments. Amex is doing well working with Foursquare, Chase has Quickpay, BoA has a card swipe app, but it’s the true open APIs from Stripe and Braintree and Discover that attract developers. I use Venmo on a daily basis, and they were acquired by Braintree. I hear they are trying to raise money now.
More on Estimote.
I’ve already preordered my estimotes and my bytelights.