beacon near copier
iBeacon in Accessibility, iBeacon Technology, iBeacon Uses

Micro-location as an accessibility opportunity

Microlocation has begun to enter mainstream consciousness.  A micro location technology that is not designed to track a person yet allows to determine your proximity. This is not a creepy google glass invasion, iBeacons, at least as they currently deployed, do not track you, you track them. This is fantastic news for people with navigation needs such as the visually impaired. Sadly, there has been little discussion or use-case work on how it could be incorporated into being effective indoor navigation. Being able to discover what is around you on a reliable basis is a big promise of the internet of everything, combined with services that allow you to opt-into would allow users to know the state of objects or services.

iBeacon does not carry payload, if the operator allows its position to be mapped you can know with a high degree of accuracy where you are—an iBeacon will not tell you your are standing next to the men’s bathroom. However, taking the next step with the user subscribing to a “location” content service the user could elect to find nearby bathrooms, or simply room numbers. Additional information a user may opt into could be status changes, so when a bathroom is out of operation the operator would simply stick up a virtual yellow sign saying “Out of order” much as is done now physically.

Extra work for personnel?, In some ways yes, but identifying such status information in a BIM scenario also allows building administration to be informed of the “out-of-order” bathroom status. So now we have a use case scenario that not only aids a visually impaired individual to locate and determine status but the building operator is also aware of  the building state. Awareness has multiple benefits, some are obvious to the operator/owner of the iBeacon others could be as valuable to other users as long as the information’s not locked away or provided to you if you surrender your anonymity.

The anonymity aspect is important. Users should not be obligated to use a “store app” and be logged in to obtain location positioning and subsequent navigational information. User should not be subject to the “notified of special offers” or other marketing payloads or tracking unless they opt into that component.

The iBeacon is about being able to broadcast cheaply the location of an object. Lets hope that as part of this awareness Apple ensures that services also share socially relevant information.