Apple has just released the iBeacon specifications for everyone who is a member of the MFi program, Apple’s program for hardware partners (“Made for iPhone program”, etc.). You’ll have to sign an NDA to read the specifications. BEEKn first spotted the news. The company also reiterates that you can’t use the iBeacon brand without prior consent. You have to register to the MFi program, submit a request and get approved by Apple. It’s free for now.
As a reminder, iBeacon is an indoor positioning system based on Bluetooth Low Energy. Many iOS and Android devices now come with Bluetooth Low Energy, so they are all theoretically compatible with iBeacon. iBeacon is particularly interesting for retailers. They can buy a beacon (such as the Estimote pictured above) and use it for proximity interactions.
For instance, merchants can send a push notification to smartphone users when they get close to a particular product. It can also be used for payment systems to detect who is in your store. There are countless of possibilities — it’s just the beginning.
iBeacon is just a particular implementation of Bluetooth Low Energy. Devices broadcast a Bluetooth LE signal, and iPhones download data when they are close to a beacon. It also works with Android phones, and Apple apparently doesn’t want to stop that.
Yet, iBeacon is a registered trademark and Apple can decide what to do. For now, developers who sign up to the MFi program, request to use the iBeacon name, and conform to the Apple standard can use the brand for free. iBeacon devices will mostly be B2B devices for shop owners, trade show staffs and more.
Think of it like the “Made for iPhone” brand. Dock manufacturers can build a speaker that works with Android and iOS phones. They put the little “Made for iPhone” stickers. It means that Apple certifies that it will work well with iPhones. The iBeacon brand works the same way for beacons.