The iBeacon is a highly advanced piece of technology that has many useful attributes. Originally, the product was designed to help notify and draw in customers within a certain proximity to a particular stores sale, bathroom location, food court or other designated attractions. This incredibly progressive idea benefits both the customer and the retailer alike.
Below are a few words from the the authors of Apple Insider on other functions designers are finding for the iBeacon:
Micro-location door activation
Essentially, rather than using satellite signals to locate a device anywhere on Earth as GPS does, BLE can enable a mobile user to navigate and interact with specific regions geofenced by low cost signal emitters that can be placed anywhere, including indoors, and even on moving targets. Additionally, it appears iOS devices can also act as an iBeacon:
Acting as iBeacon, a user with an iOS 7 device in hand could trigger events around them, allowing them to, for example, turn on lights and unlock and open doors simply by signaling the user’s proximity to devices listening for it via BLE.
While Apple’s specific feature set for iBeacons remains under NDA, the BLE specification also supports the concept of device leashing, which could, for example, enable a peripheral like a watchband to communicate its location to a configured smartphone. The specification also supports peripheral push notifications, which Apple supports in new APIs in both OS X Mavericks and iOS 7.
Micro-location indoor navigation
iOS 7′s iBeacons can be used by app developers to do things like build an interactive tour of a museum, where the user’s attention is directed to specific exhibits as they walk freely within the building. In more general terms, the feature can also be used enable indoor navigation similar to GPS in settings such as an airport or underground subway station where GPS signals aren’t available, or specifically to enhance navigational accessibility for the blind or users with other impairments.
As enumerated above, the iBeacon, like many other technologies out on the market, have great potential not only from a business perspective, but on a practical level as well. The visually impaired community could greatly benefit from devices with micro-locating abilities as a means of navigation in public settings. The technology does not have to change, neither does the target audiences for the engineers of these products, it is simply the expansion of one idea and applying it on a much grander scale. That is not to say that it would not benefit the manufacturers of items such as the iBeacon to be conscious about broadening their ideas of who could benefit and utilize their products.
To learn more about my sources on assistive iBeacon applications click: Assistive iBeacon applications
To see a disables user scenario click: iBeacon UNR