Apple's iBeacon sensor technology gets another vote of confidence for use in location-based services

Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iBeacon technology will be used by Zebra Technologies to enable customized location-based advertising within retail stores and other venues.

At the National Retail Federation's annual convention, which begins today, Zebra is demonstrating how Zatar, its cloud-based Internet of things (IoT) platform, can work with iBeacons to deliver customized messaging and deals to shoppers. Specifically, the demo will show how iBeacon can communicate with Zatar by sharing a consumer's location with a third-party display application.

Though it didn't get a lot of attention when it was announced at the company's WorldWide Developer Conference during summer 2013, Apple's iBeacon technology is already making waves in the micro-location market. The technology extends location services by recognizing the presence of iOS and other devices via the use of Bluetooth Low Energy (also called Bluetooth Smart), which reduces power consumption via a low pulsing method but also works with the previous "Classic Bluetooth" versions.

Zebra cited Ben Bajarin, analyst at Creative Strategies, who has estimated that up to 190 million Apple iOS devices, as well as a growing number of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android devices, support Bluetooth Smart and iBeacon.

"As iBeacon technology becomes more widely deployed, retailers will have an immediate opportunity to transform consumer shopping experiences by integrating location services and display messaging in their stores with minimal investment," said Phil Gerskovich, Zebra's senior vice president of new growth platforms.

Apple's iBeacon is not the only sensor game in town, however. For example, Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) last month announced the commercial release of its Gimbal-brand proximity beacons, which also employ Bluetooth Smart technology. And Estimote, which is also targeting the retail market for its wireless beacons, recently raised a $3.1 million seed round from numerous venture firms and angel investors.

In addition to Bluetooth Smart, other micro-location approaches are based on technologies such as Wi-Fi, electromagnetic signals, sound waves, impulse radio ultra wideband (IR-UWB) and more.

Zebra noted that growing use of cloud computing and the ubiquity of wireless networks have made connecting devices and sensors more cost-efficient, fueling the rapid growth of the Internet of Things.

In a recent blog entry, Creative Strategies' Bajarin forecast that 6 billion connected devices will ship in 2016. "In 2015 alone connected devices will generate over 8 billion zetabytes of data. By 2020 there will be over 200 billion connected devices in use," he said.

Bajarin added that by 2025, he expects there will be 1 trillion connected objects in use.

For more:
- see this Zebra release
- see this Creative Strategies blog post

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