According to the Tame Apple Press who have failed to see what a bad idea this is, it allows you to “personalize the world around you.” Given that my perception of the world is already personal I can’t see how a technology company can define it for me, but apparently that means telling the world who I am and what I am doing. An iBeacon is a Bluetooth Low Energy radio that broadcasts a signal in a given area, say the doorway to a clothing or grocery store. Your iPhone – if it has Bluetooth 4.0, and the radio is turned on, and iOS notifications and location services are active – can detect that signal and query the beacon. The beacon uses radio signal strength to figure out the phone’s location and can share that with iOS. Your phone shows an invitation from the beacon to enable something like “in-store notifications,” which involves sharing your Bluetooth-determined location.
If you accept, your phone downloads an app and the store can then send you stuff, such as coupons or special offers, or provide services such as buying advice, product ratings, or an updated loyalty card, as you move within range of different beacons throughout the store. Yeah so basically your iPhone will start serving you spam based on your location. The question is who is dumb enough to want to do that. Well people who are dumb are Apple’s target market is “people too stupid to own a proper computer or smartphone” so we guess it thinks it is onto a winner.
An iBeacon can’t track you it is just an electronic tripwire that sets up a connection through your iPhone between you and a backend server of some kind. Of course it is only a matter of time before the NSA works out how to turn the iBeacon into a homing device, but then again it has already got all sorts of snazzy gear to do that anyway.