Near field communication or NFC for short is one technology that Apple did not want to lay their hands on. However, Apple did want to enter the IoT market. So Apple did what they do the best; they innovated. Bluetooth has been around for years now, and I always wondered what the actual use of this technology was. I mean it takes forever to transfer a song; the ranges are not so good as well. But when it comes to short range connection oriented tasks, Bluetooth is your best friend.
Apple exploited the fact that every smart phone has Bluetooth in it and introduced a fascinating technology called iBeacon. It has been around for some time now. Based on BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) and not the conventional Bluetooth; this technology is ideal for low power applications. The concept is to make a device so low powered that it may last for years. While Apple only worked on the BLE for their iPhones; many other startups sprung up and started changing the world with their iBeacon based applications.
Estimote, Netclearence, Sonic Notify and Radius Networks are just few of the many in the business. Innovation with iBeacons is not that difficult as well. Even RaspberryPi can be used to behave as beacon. Estimote is offering 3 node system for only $33 each. This is not very expensive. Zigbee and Z-wave have tried to become the Bluetooth and WI-FI of the internet of things paradigm; while that are equally suited to do so; but are so highly priced that it becomes unaffordable for startups to exploit them properly. The Chinese ones that I have personally been using for industrial automation cost $21 each.
The basic idea behind all these startups is the proximity based messaging and alarms. Say you walk into Stoneage and you like a pair of jeans and there is no one to service you. You take out your phone turn the iBeacons application on and BAM you have all the information you need about all the articles you pass by. Isn’t it amazing?
It is strange and fascinating how technology is evolving and without much effort or using all the bits and pieces already available in the market; innovators and entrepreneurs are making history and creating stuff that changes who we are every day.