iBeacon. It’s a Trademark, Not a Technology.

There is a common misconception with customers and media covering the beacon industry, about the actual role of Apple and iBeacon in this industry. So we thought we’d spend some time explaining and clarifying what “iBeacon” really is, and how it affects beacon technology.

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iBeacon is a way to configure Beacons, but not the actual Beacon

iBeacon™  is a trademarked brand name used by Apple Inc. It basically covers (from a marketing perspective) the overall Beacon ecosystem (hardware, software, apps and so on) – but it has little to do with the physical technology or what it can do.

Apple refers iBeacon as “a new technology that extends Location Services in iOS”. What this “technology” really encompasses is an open standard recommended by Apple, to determine how the technology should be configured to interact with their platforms (iOS & OSX).

Beacons are therefore NOT an Apple Inc. monopoly

Apple announced iBeacon™ in the summer of 2013, and to this date, they have not launched any tangible standalone Beacons. If you think about it, though, why should they?

Apple essentially opened a whole new industry, and through the ability of iOS7-devices to send and receive messages via Bluetooth 4.0 (Bluetooth Smart); it made this industry possible in the first place. There is still a lot of great things that Apple is doing for Beacon vendors, and iOS8 has opened even more possibilities for the Beacon-enabled future!

Our point is that a Beacon device is not determined by whether it fulfills Apple’s standard, but whether it can use Bluetooth 4.0 to transmit messages. Bluetooth Smart is the key technology here, and, therefore, all iBeacons are Beacons by default, but not all Beacons are iBeacons (and don’t necessarily have to be). Beacons include iBeacon, and much more! Beacons are small, low-cost, all-weather, low-powered wireless sensors and BLE transmitters. Our Beacons are iBeacon compatible as we operate under Apple’s official MFI licensing program; which allows us to display the iBeacon logo on our website and marketing materials.

All the latest mobile operating systems already support Beacon technology (remember the key technology is Bluetooth Smart). Smartphones running the Android, Windows, and even Blackberry can receive messages from Beacons, and can even become Beacons simply by enabling your Bluetooth (version 4.0 that is).

Nobody is questioning Apple’s impact on this great technology, and there is a good reason why iBeacon is often a synonym for Beacons. People (and the media who report on this industry) should, however, understand that Beacon is the actual term to use (though admittedly not the easier term to plug into a search engine).

You can, however, expect a Google-branded response to emerge very soon.


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