iBeacon in Accessibility, iBeacon Technology, iBeacon Uses

Buy-In for Micro-Location Accessibility

You are out on a late summer evening running some errands. The Reno night air is cool against your skin and the bustling noises of the passing traffic tickles your ears. You need to catch a bus to the third terminal on Virginia Street in order to reach your next destination. Unfortunately though, the micro-location transmitters you were using a moment ago to navigate, being that you are a visually impaired individual, are no longer available. They have not been installed in this particular location. It seems now that catching your bus will be just as tricky as old times…

One of the downfalls of the new iBeacon operating system in terms of its possible use for micro-location accessibility is that it requires a large amount of public buy-in, both through community commitment and partnership. Since the technology seems to be currently aimed at promoting retail endeavors, the operating system is only available in participating venues thus far. Perhaps even the technology has been installed on university campuses, in museums, or in theme parks in order to allow for ease of use, which further extends its coverage boarders. However, the coverage of iBeacon and Bluetooth 4.0 technology is still far from universal.

This is a barrier to the use and promotion of the new iBeacon technology in micro-location accessibility. The community will need to come together, forging a conversation regarding the future uses of the iBeacon technology system. This is the only way that mico-location accessibility through the iBeacon operating system will be made possible.

iBeacon in Accessibility, iBeacon Technology, iBeacon Uses

iBeacon at a Glance

Picture of iOS 7 iBeacon device

Apple iBeacon device used for micro-location

Apple technologies such as Google Maps and FourSquare have long used location data to enhance the average user’s mobile experience. However, that is just the beginning, where Bluetooth’s latest technology “revolutionizes how people interact with everyday objects and place.”

Using the latest iOS7 software as a platform, Apple created iBeacon which utilizes Bluetooth 4.0, a location based technology. The iBeacon operating system allows sensors to detect the exact presence of a phone, within inches of accuracy. Since the unveiling of the technology in the summer of 2013, Apple has stated that its new operating system has the potential to “provide apps a whole new level of location awareness.”

iBeacon is currently being implemented mainly as a marketing tool, although the possibilities appear endless. Through the use of an application specific to a retail store, the consumer can receive up to date coupons and promotions based on their exact location in the store. For example, iBeacon technology would allow a store to track the location of a customer say in the wine isle, offering them a push notification containing a coupon for a Cabernet Sauvignon. Macy’s has recently piloted the technology in a few stores nationwide and found it to be a successful tool.

Other clever uses of iBeacon Technology can be found in this Washington Post article.

But what if the technology, which locates an individual’s exact location using their mobile device, were used to assist the visually impaired? Micro-location, through the iBeacon operating system, has the potential to unlock doors to promote independence through accurate and user-friendly accessibility.