One of Apple's
(NASDAQ:AAPL) latest innovations is the iBeacon, the company's answer to near-field communication (NFC). The Apple iBeacon is a small wireless device that uses Bluetooth low-energy technology to detect and communicate with iPhones within a range of 160 feet.
Essentially, it functions like an ultra-precise indoor GPS system that businesses can use to engage with customers in various ways. For example, once a potential customer and her or his iPhone comes within the range of a retailer's iBeacon, the retailer can transmit a coupon to the iPhone to encourage the customer to stop in. If this succeeds and the customer enters the store, the iBeacons (they are sold in a set of three) can triangulate a customer's exact location within a store and send specific promotions based on which products the consumer is closest to.
Restaurants, retailers, and sports stadiums
have begun using the technology in earnest, but the major semiconductor-producing company Texas Instruments
(NASDAQ:TXN) believes that the Apple iBeacon can have many more applications. As TI's wireless connectivity executive Oyvind Birkenes said in a press release, the the technology has a place in "everything from asset trackers, retail, building automation systems, automotive and industrial applications, and a wide variety of consumer electronics."
Texas Instruments is bringing Apple's iBeacon technology to three of its microcontrollers, its BL6450Q automotive applications controller, and its WiLink integrated Wi-Fi and Blueooth packages. "By providing support for iBeacon technology across our entire Bluetooth low-energy portfolio as well as a new SimpleLink SensorTag location app and broadcaster reference design, we are enabling manufacturers to quickly add micro-locationing capabilities to their products," said Birkenes. That app he mentioned will function as a companion for TI's $25 development kit for the iBeacon.
Apple is not the only company on the beacons block: Late last year, Qualcomm
(NASDAQ:QCOM) announced its Gimbal proximity beacons, which work with both Apple's iOS and Google's
(NASDAQ:GOOG) Android (the iBeacon works only with iOS). Moreover, Qualcomm's offerings on the beacon front are much cheaper (for more on the Gimbal proximity beacons, see Qualcomm's Android-Capable Answer to Apple's iBeacon
Follow me on Twitter: @JoshWolonick and @Minyanville
No positions in stocks mentioned.