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Interactions with iBeacons & Seamless Networking

The new and unique possibilities provided by iBeacons and Multipeer Connectivity in iOS7.

Nov 28, 2013

4 min read

The Wall

Imagine being able to tell how close and how many people are in the room in a completely passive manner, with an opt-in model.

Imagine being able to receive personal preferences, send information regarding the current physical location to each of those people, regardless of their internet connectivity, requiring no previous setup. Being able to send tiny messages, files or stream media to and from each person.

Imagine when you combine both location awareness, networking, and the incredible amount of sensors, data, computing power provided by today’s cellphones.

Except you don’t have to, because over 22 million phones are out there, ready to provide unique experiences to their owners and hopefully other platforms will follow.

The Frame

picture of NFC logo on fire

The problem today is that we’re coming out of the NFC bandwagon, which might be the proper tool for when we have access specialized hardware and requirements include having the person perform a very explicit and physically-bound action i.e.: tapping two objects together.

But in situations where we want to offer an experience that requires no more than being nearby a bus station, a cashier, walking into a café or just being.

An experience enabled by common bluetooth hardware, following along with the path of general-purpose computing we’ve observed in the last 60 years, where instead of a ‘walkman’, ‘cd player’, ‘set-top box’, ‘video game console’ we have a single device, able to perform many specialized tasks such as the ones performed by a Phone or Heart Rate Monitor.

Experiences enabled by tightly knit hardware and software combinations that provide painless and reliable access to micro-location data down to the 10cm figures, that work hard behind the scenes, figuring out the best technology to provide us with seamless exchange of information between devices.

That’s a very pompous introduction to the awesomeness that iOS 7’s iBeacons and Multipeer Connectivity can deliver.

The Picture

two happy iOS devices

The reason for the pompous introduction to these two technologies is that we have introduced in the last decades a lot of friction to our lives.

Service providers need to make sure every single one of their customers have paid for their service, and we need to work so hard to just make that happen that we don’t have time for anything else in the experience.

Or maybe it’s just that we are lazy, in a rush to catch the train but haven’t got a ticket.

You choose your point of view, but personally and capitalist issues aside, we can solve these problems better.

Have in mind though, that any technology that enables the democratization of tools and dilutes bureaucracy benefits the community overall.

Think for example about payments and service discovery, being able to identify which local community members are able to provide a service, and if I can reward them without the friction and rigidness of a card machine - dedicated hardware, fees, accepts only money.

But that’s a different and very interesting topic.

In this post we’re talking about creating seamless experiences, bridging the digital and physical, giving voice and listening the customer on a big scale.

The possible experiences are endless: you can customize a restaurant menu based on taste derived from the person’s foursquare checkins, tweak ambient sound to match the person’s preference, connect people just by having stand next to each other for period of time, create a game with mechanics that rely on each player’s close physical proximity, motion, everything a phone can provide.

But remember: it’s not about the features, it’s how passive these components are, there is no tapping, and to an extreme: not even touching your phone, just being there.

The Ink

If you want to know more about iBeacons and Multipeer Connectivity, I recommend the following WWDC 2013 videos, iOS Documentation and code samples I provide.

Even if you don’t have any technical knowledge, the WWDC videos are reasonably accessible, you just have to sit through some more technical parts but even those enable you to understand the constraints of the technology so I do recommend them.

iBeacons
Multipeer Connectivity

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