iBeacon: What is it and why should I care?

Think Minority Report. Without all the weird eye stuff

You know that scene in Minority Report when Tom Cruise's character walks into a clothing store and a scanner reads his eyeballs and asks how his last purchase is working out for him? Well, iBeacons don’t scan your eyes - don’t worry - but the results could be along the same lines.

An iBeacon is a small gizmo, about the size of a hockey puck, with a low-energy Bluetooth transmitter built in. It’s battery-powered and can run for more than a year before the AA cell runs out. And it sends out little messages which an iPhone can detect. So if, say, you have an app for an airline, as you pass the bureau de change your phone could alert you that there’s a deal for commission-free currency exchange. This is what Virgin Atlantic announced today, with iBeacons in Heathrow airport providing exactly that service: MoneyCorp is a Virgin Atlantic partner and passengers with the Virgin app can hear about offers such as this.

If you’re flying Upper Class, well, you’re probably pretty happy about that already. But as you approach the dedicated security channel for Upper passengers, your phone can receive an iBeacon transmission so that the iPhone automatically opens the electronic boarding pass on the handset ready for security to scan it. Handy while you’re struggling with your carry-on bags.

Virgin Atlantic hope to make use of the gadgets for their passengers Virgin Atlantic hope to make use of the gadgets for their passengers Apple makes clear that these capabilities are only there if you want them. Privacy is a big issue and you have to opt in to receive the notifications. And obviously, you don’t have to have the app on your phone in the first place.

Still, this is the thin end of a sizeable wedge – expect other companies to follow suit so that they can let you know about special offers or other ways to personalise your experience.

Reuben Arnold, Brand and Customer Engagement Director at Virgin Atlantic, said that the company has plans to extend this. “We’ve only skimmed the surface,” he said. Future plans include notifying an Upper Class passenger that there is an open appointment in the Clubhouse spa. There are also more minor benefits possible such as introducing the crew members on your flight as you board the aircraft – though you may feel you’ve got enough on your plate finding your seat, thank you very much. “Our passengers are increasingly more connected as they travel and by using advanced technology we can improve customer experience and continue to put innovation at the heart of the flying experience,” he says.

Fancy a drink? iBeacon might help you with that Fancy a drink? iBeacon might help you with that In technological terms this is interesting because it’s Apple’s answer to critics who feel the iPhone should have NFC built in, as many other smartphones do. NFC (near field communication) is the short-distance connection which allows a mobile to pair with a wireless speaker for instance, just by knocking the two together. It can also be used in easy payment systems and although it may yet kickstart this, it hasn’t taken off yet. The iBeacon is pretty cheap – those pucks cost in the order of £30-£40 and can be left maintenance-free, resting hidden above a ceiling tile for a couple of years. And the distance over which it operates is the same as other Bluetooth gadgets, that is, up to 10 metres, much more than NFC.

Of course, its usefulness depends on what you want. If you fancy the idea of going to a football stadium and, as you walk in, being automatically sent information about that afternoon’s game, it could be of interest. If not, you might not want to turn it on.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Sport
England’s opening goalscorer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain battles with Scotland’s Charlie Mulgrew
FootballEngland must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Sport
Wigan Athletic’s back-of-the shirt sponsor Premier Range has pulled out due to Malky Mackay’s arrival
Football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

    Ampersand Consulting LLP: Server / Infrastructure Engineer (Exchange, Windows, VMware)

    £28000 - £36000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Serv...

    Langley James : Business Systems Manager, PRINCE2, Surrey £55k - £80k

    £55000 - £80000 per annum + BUPA: Langley James : Business Systems Manager, PR...

    Recruitment Genius: 1st / 2nd Line IT Support Engineer

    £21000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity to join a p...

    Day In a Page

    US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

    Immigration: Obama's final frontier

    The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

    Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

    You know that headache you’ve got?

    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

    Scoot commute

    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
    Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

    The Paul Robeson story

    How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
    10 best satellite navigation systems

    Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

    Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
    Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

    Paul Scholes column

    England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

    Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
    Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

    Frank Warren column

    Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines