By formalizing a specification for the BLE technology for vendors and developers alike, Apple has essentially brought location- and proximity-based functionality indoors, which has obviously excited the home-automation community a great deal. However, it's the commercial app potential that excites most developers. The ability to understand, within a few feet, exactly where an iOS device is within a store, museum, or theme park means that we, as app developers, have been given a great big golden ticket of opportunity.
In December 2013, Apple leveraged iBeacon themselves by installing beacons in all 254 of their U.S. stores to become their very own case study. The Apple Store leveraged micro-location awareness to provide customers who had the official Apple Store app installed on their devices with information relevant to the items they were actually looking at.
Since Apple's iBeacon implementation, there have been a whole host of high-profile commercial projects, including:
Macy's (http://bit.ly/macysibeacon): Macy's was the first major retailer to support iBeacon, which gives shoppers special offers and deals and rewards shoppers for their visits
Virgin Atlantic (http://bit.ly/virgin-ibeacon): Virgin Atlantic has deployed iBeacons into London's Heathrow airport to give promotional offers while passengers are visiting the terminal
Major League Baseball (http://bit.ly/mlb-ibeacon): Many Major League Baseball teams have now adopted iBeacons in stadiums to engage with fans on their mobile devices while at the game
Antwerp Museum (http://bit.ly/antwerp-ibeacon): The Antwerp Museum has brought its exhibits to life with iBeacon, allowing visitors to move around its Rubens House exhibit and trigger information about the current display based on the user's current location
These are just some of the actual iBeacon implementations that are available at the time of writing this book. As far as your own projects go, the sky is the limit. Here are a few ideas to whet your appetite:
Proximity marketing: Offer complete customized marketing when a customer enters your store combined with information about their previous purchases. As they pass some fine leather brogues say, "Hey, those blue leather brogues would look great with that floral shirt you bought last week."
Home automation: Imagine pulling up to your drive and your porch lights turn on. That's not groundbreaking really; we've had movement sensors for years. However, imagine that the movement sensors, as well as turning your lights on, also started running you a bath, dimming the lights, and playing some relaxing music.
Museum exhibits: Just like a personalized audio tour on your phone as you browse between exhibits and galleries without a predetermined direction, museum curators can build heatmaps of their most popular exhibits and reorganize galleries based on visitor behavior.
Venue navigation: Get geofenced navigation of large venues with a custom tour guide app.
Conference interaction: Using iBeacon, we could deliver location-context information and features. During a keynote your app could deliver features to people who are sitting in the theater, not to those walking around the exhibits outside the theater.
Car rental: Just before you get on a flight, you could order and pay for your car rental. Then, when you arrive at the airport, your car could automatically unlock when you get near to it. This would require a little more computation and extra hardware within the car, but the essence is made possible by iBeacon.
Taxi alert: Order a cab through your phone and receive a push notification when they're outside waiting for you.