WWDC: Bringing Home the iBeacon

It’s hard to resist the parlor game of guessing what Apple will launch at its World Wide Developers Conference – but with the Wall Street Journal reporting that iBeacon will get time on stage during the keynote, I’ll add a few more last minute predictions to the list I posted this weekend.

With Apple expected to make announcements related to a connected home, I proposed that Bluetooth LE is the ‘secret star’ of WWDC. Whether it’s explicitly called out or not, BLE powers much of the communication architecture of Apple’s potential connected devices.

From smart thermostats to a Healthbook app, BLE is the lightweight ‘broadcast’ technology that lets one device know that another device is near, what it is, and what kind of data it’s transmitting.

But perhaps Apple will be more explicit about iBeacon itself. To that end, a few more predictions to add to my previous post.

Estimote: Coming Soon to an Apple Store Near You

Rumors are that Estimote has a follow-up device in the works. Its original iBeacon device was always positioned as a developer kit, and the company has been noticeably silent with new releases, cloud tools and follow-on product.

But Estimote is nothing if not a Y Combinator playbook. And like any company driven by the release cycle/investment stage approach of Silicon Valley, it knows how to time its press.

If I was following the same playbook, the step to take that would make the most sense? Hold your release until WWDC and then launch out of the gate on the back of the Apple press.

So while we might not see Estimote on the main stage (although we might!), my prediction is two-fold:

  • Estimote will launch a new beacon or hardware product on the heels of WWDC
  • Apple will announce (either on the main stage or in the companion briefing materials) that it will be selling iBeacon devices in its stores, with Estimote being the poster child for the initiative.

The announcement that Apple is making iBeacon devices available through its stores won’t be positioned as a retail play – instead, it will be launched as a way to make iBeacon accessible to everyone – from schools to small businesses to the local yoga studio.

If this is true, then in addition to Estimote we’ll see other products ‘ready for shelf’ with more targeted audiences – highly secure beacons for healthcare settings and carry-along beacons (like Tile or Chipolo) for your key chain.

Maps: Making Triangulation  and Wayfinding Easier

I alluded to this in my last post but want to call it out more explicitly.

Apple is expected to make major improvements to its maps…and with those improvements, expect the company to explicitly draw a connection to iBeacon. The details will be rolled out during the workshops and sessions that are held in the days following the keynote, but I fully expect developers to have a new set of programming tools and classes that will extend the functionality of beacons beyond simple range detection into triangulation, indoor mapping and wayfinding.

Broadcast Always On

It won’t mean a lot to most people and therefore won’t likely be a keynote topic, but one of the limits of iBeacon is that although your phone or iPad can be a beacon, keeping it running is a challenge.

While your phone can detect beacons even if your phone is off, turning your phone INTO a beacon has limitations. Say, for example, that you want to turn your iPad into a beacon. You need to worry about power, app state and avoiding conflicts between beacon transmission and detection.

Dig into the workshops following the keynote, and I expect to see improvements to how Apple treats turning your iDevice into a beacon.

Share Your Thoughts

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Any last minute predictions for WWDC? Do you think Estimote will come out with a new product this week? And would beacons in Apple stores make sense? Or would they confuse consumers who expect them to, you know, DO something (not understanding that they need an app!)

10 thoughts on “WWDC: Bringing Home the iBeacon

  1. HAHA yeah – on Estimote anyways, although I’m going to wait until next week and see if they really do come out with anything on the heels of the conference.

    Wayfinding and indoor mapping however was correct. I still haven’t had anyone let us know whether the SDK has any changes in broadcast mode so I have no clue.


  2. Doug
    We’re deciding between a series of beacons in a market that seems to ever more commodity based. We have issues, like you with estimote but like Gelo and kontackt and StickNFind. Can you offer any advice on who’s best of breed?


  3. There are (at least) two interesting videos from WWDC (developer.apple.com/videos/wwdc/2014) that deal with iBeacon technology: “Taking Core Location Indoors” and “Whats new in Core Location.” The highlight seems to be the
    addition of precise indoor positioning via Wi-Fi and the built-in M7 motion sensor (and apparently Apple’s consent since you need to register your venue to activate indoor positioning) to pinpoint indoor location through the current Core Location API. The first video presents a nice walk-through of using Indoor Positioning with iBeacons


  4. HAHA is right on Estimote. Their beacons are not even FCC certified, so NO WAY are they sellable by Apple or anyone else who does not want to get fined for selling unlicensed radio hardware.


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