iBeacon, Apple’s new framework for using low-cost Bluetooth LE devices to beam notifications to nearby smartphones and tablets, will soon be getting a bigger push from Apple and third-party manufacturers through its Made-For-iPhone program. While “iBeacon” is often used in the media to describe any Bluetooth beacon, Apple is now implementing tighter control over who can use the ‘iBeacon’ branding. Much like it requires for manufacturers placing the “Made-for-iPhone” branding on Apple authorized devices, Apple is now requiring manufacturers meet certain specifications before using ‘iBeacon’ on their products. The change was first spotted by Beekn.net. It appears the program is separate from the main Bluetooth MFi specification as it still asks that accessory manufacturers not support the iBeacon feature.
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The change means that manufacturers will have to apply through Apple’s MFi channels for permission to use the iBeacon name on products and in the process will have to meet certain specifications. Fortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any requirements that would limit the functionality of beacon products already on the market. The requirements are comparable to those for Bluetooth accessory makers under the MFi program. As competitors developing their own competitive Bluetooth beacon standards hit the market, the ‘iBeacon’ branding will make it easy for consumers to recognize products authorized by Apple for use with iOS devices. The iBeacon requirements, however, do not prevent beacons from working with Android devices as well.
The concept of iBeacons is simple: As you walk around retail stores or other locations, your iOS device will communicate with iBeacons in proximity and display notifications, promotions, payment options, or other info setup by whoever deployed the nearby beacons. So far we’ve seen the iBeacon technology used in several retail environments including the Apple Store and Macy’s, as well as during events like CES and MLB games. Most recently, MLB announced it had completed a rollout of iBeacons at stadiums that will present notifications that include info related to the game and stadium through the MLB At the Ballpark app.