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Beacon technology was named after the iBeacon API that Apple released with iOS7. The API listens for a bluetooth UDID broadcast. At the time of iOS7, the API had to be associated to an existing app. Through the app’s background location monitoring, the UDID broadcast from a beacon could be detected and used as a hyperlocal trigger.
Since then, large and small companies have explored production of Beacon devices. The devices are small bluetooth radios strapped to a battery that broadcast the Beacon UDID every few seconds. The major differences between products are battery life, security, associated cloud-platforms, and hardware design.
iOS8’s release last year allowed beacons to be triggered in the iPhone lock-screen. Before this, the Beacon’s needed an app to trigger push notifications or in-app behavior. The iOS8 lock-screen interface creates a new interface for apps to be used based on location.
The example I have seen most for Beacons is coupons. The example shows a customer, who has a store’s app, walking by a brick-and-morter shop. Based on the dependency for having an app, this seems useless. I imagine any coupon notification would be a reminder for a user to delete the app.
I’m most interested in how these Beacons would be able to change the meaning of existing physical objects. In relation to news and media, the newspaper stand seems like an object that hasn’t changed. I can imagine an opportunity to repurpose these metal objects.