Friday saw Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) roll-out its iBeacon technology that tracks its customers’ movements in its brick-and-mortar flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Since then, 253 other stores have joined the flagship in providing something somewhere between location-based text messages and privacy violation. While this is certainly no Snowden affair, there is little denying that people are more interested in their privacy than they might have been befire the story broke in May.
What is this new Apple feature?
The location-sensing technology can be used to send a variety of information to those nearby the iBeacon transmitters, including details on products, events, and offers. These can begin at the entrance, cover the whole store, or be specific to single aisles or display tables.
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“The beacons can be adjusted to specific distances, so you may get some notifications regardless of where you are inside,” the AP reported this weekend, adding, “Others will come only when you are standing at a particular aisle, wall or product demo table.”
The iBeacon technology was included in Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s release of iOS 7, though it was done with little fanfare or much of a push by the company.
Who will use it?
While the technology may prove itself useful, the utility in the Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) stores is limited by Apple’s unwillingness to sell its products below list price. Macy’s began testing the technology recently, and it makes sense. Macy’s, especially during the holiday shopping season, can be a zoo and sale items could easily go unnoticed. A text message, based on location, drawing your attention to these items might be viewed fondly. Apple, however, is limited to two-sentence encouragements to trade in an old iPhone or reminders to use the Apple store app for product reviews.
There could, however, be a few important uses for iBeacon in Apple Stores in the future. The technology could be used to greet people with a personal message, provide Personal Pickup information for online purchases, and manage the Genius Bar queues.
But the real utility has to lie outside of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s retail locations, and in getting retailers to adopt the technology. It’s not tough to see consumers being happy to receive a coupon for socks, when they enter the shoe department. Until then, you may just wish to switch it off when in an Apple Store.