Apple knows where shoppers are in its stores with nationwide iBeacon rollout

Shoppers could start receiving notifications as they walk past the latest iPhones

New iBeacon integration for the Apple Store app, as pictured on Dec. 6, 2013.

New iBeacon integration for the Apple Store app, as pictured on Dec. 6, 2013.

Apple is taking a closer look at shoppers in its retail stores, under a new program that will push product-related information to their mobile devices using its iBeacon trackers.

All 254 of the company's U.S. stores now employ Apple's iBeacon location services technology, Apple confirmed Friday. The iBeacon software was included in Apple's recent iOS 7 update for mobile devices like the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Compatible iBeacon hardware has since been installed throughout Apple's stores, anywhere from the front entrance to a product table sporting the latest iPads, from which it communicates with the software.

The integration marks Apple's large-scale entrance into the hot, emerging known location- or place-based marketing field. Over the past year or so a range of smaller startups have sprung up offering services designed to gather more information about shoppers in stores to serve them hyper-targeted deals or other product information. The idea is to improve brick-and-mortar stores' ability to compete against e-commerce giants like Amazon, which already know plenty about their users' digital shopping habits.

The Apple rollout affects everyone who has the Apple Store app installed on their iOS device. Bluetooth has to be enabled on the device, because that's the underlying technology powering iBeacon. Users also have to give the app permission for the iBeacon technology to work. Once they do, they could start receiving several different types of notifications as they walk through Apple's stores.

Some of the technology's features are designed to give people additional information about certain products as they walk past them. So if shoppers are standing near the latest iPhones a notification might pop up on their phone to let them know they're eligible for an upgrade. At the accessories table, the iBeacon technology could also let people use their iOS devices to learn more about certain products.

If the person was shopping online from home and chose to pick up the item in the store, the app could also tell them that the particular product is ready when they walk inside.

More product discovery features are likely on the way.

Although some people might have come to accept it online, others might find the thought of being tracked in physical stores a bit creepy. Earlier this year Nordstrom had to suspend a Wi-Fi-based tracking program after consumers learned what the store was up to.

But Apple does not store any personal information through iBeacon, a spokesman said. The technology is designed to only work one way, from the hardware to the phone. The hardware component emits a signal and the phone recognizes it, but nothing is sent back to the hardware, the spokesman said.

Beyond improving the bottom line for its own stores, Apple hopes its iBeacon technology could usher in all sorts of applications. The technology could provide third-party apps "a whole new level of micro-location awareness, such as trail markers in a park, exhibits in a museum, or product displays in stores," Apple said in a statement.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet-based applications and servicestelecommunicationapplicationsiossecurityMobile OSesmobileinternetanalyticsmobile applicationsApple

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Zach Miners

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?