Apple Puts Weight Behind Bluetooth for Thing Interconnectivity; iBeacon debuts this Christmas Shopping Season with Shopkick

Matt Rogers, Nest Labs Founder and VP of Engineering, sent an emphatic “All I Want for Christmas” message in October at the VERGE conference when he said:  “We’ve built a connected smoke alarm and we’ve built a connected thermostat. So how do those products communicate interactively with other connected products in the home? Today there is no ‘One Way’ of doing things with interconnected products. There’s Zigbee, there’s Z-wave, there’s Wi-Fi, there’s Bluetooth. How does one even design for these markets? This year particularly some of these communication technologies should start to converge.”

Like an answer to Rogers ( and others), the market may be tipping in Bluetooth’s direction here at year’s end with Apple coyly weighing in via a relatively new iOS 7 feature, iBeacon. Notably, the proof case is not happening in the home first, but in high-profile metro retail spaces.

Shopkick beacon uses Apple iBeacon microlocation and notification technology with Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity.

Shopkick beacon uses Apple iBeacon microlocation and notification technology with Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity.

Field trials of the micro-location technology are being run at Macy’s in New York and San Francisco by Shopkick, a shopping rewards app developer. Shopkick has built a new retail experience whereby subscribed customers are pushed coupons and product news when they are physically browsing near featured items. This amounts to in-store customer engagement that rivals online.  Shopkick leverages the Bluetooth-enabled smart phones that shoppers are already carrying around in their pockets and purses.

To parse out the components from this relatively new world of beacons, there is

  1. a beacon device. (For those that want the hardware details about coverage limitations, data capacity, power use and costs, check out this Gigaom article. You’ll also learn about associated cloud services for managing the device)
  2. a mobile app integrated with a ‘behind-the scenes’ platform for content management and analytics. (For those that want to better understand the challenges of security and enterprise-software integration, here’s a great article from Venture Beat.)
  3. and a developer community (As an Apple product, this is an iBeacon strong suit. Check out the developer kits already available from Estimote.  You’ll learn more in this deep-dive interview with the founder of Estimote including a 60-second product demo. )

iBeacon certainly gives a boost to Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) as the standard for personal area networks (PAN) in retail spaces. But, could it work for personalized lighting in office spaces too? The Lumen LED Color Smart Bulb is going head-to-head with the Philips Hue, touting BLE as a key differentiator.  The concept of such bulbs transmitting their settings to an iBeacon device tied to an enterprise-grade energy efficiency management platform is not a big leap.

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Regarding next moves by Nest Labs, Apple putting its weight behind BLE via iBeacon seems like the answer to Matt Rogers Christmas wish. This Techcrunch author goes even further in his speculations about the natural ties between the two companies. He also does a great job of explaining current IoT market dynamics.

This public debut of in-store location technology is getting a lot of notice by people that follow all forms of consumer behavior and gadget tech. The commercial building controls industry should take note too. iBeacon is a connected buildings technology with great potential to disrupt the status quo.

Contributing Editor, automatedbuildings.com. Providing news and analysis of innovations in Buildings Control and Facilities Management that leverage Mobile Apps, Cloud Services and M2M Wi-Fi and Wireless Broadband networking.

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4 comments on “Apple Puts Weight Behind Bluetooth for Thing Interconnectivity; iBeacon debuts this Christmas Shopping Season with Shopkick
  1. Another alternative is the provision of a multi-communication router/bridge, e.g. as being developed by Resolv. In fact, most router suppliers already have support for three communication standards in their basic product(s) but carriers often require the removal of all but thier preferred standard. The argument against the multi-function bridge is of course cost but that fails to consider the reality that there are already many standards deployed in large volume as noted by the founder of NEST. Rather than the traditional approach of expecting one to win, e.g. WiFi, the industry may in fact be converging somewhat with standards like Zigbee SE 2.0 which is “PHY” independent, i.e. works on several types of comm links; and the P1905 standard which enables better interconnection at the network level, i.e. connecting WiFi, HomePlug, etc.; and called “AllJoin(r)” by Qualcomm.

    John Antonchick

    • therese554 says:

      Thanks for bringing in that explanation and approach! Certainly needed for streaming to and from legacy. Do you mean the home automation hub Revolv – http://revolv.com/ ? It too is getting a lot of attention this season from the gadget guys/gals. Robert Scoble interviews the Revolv cofounder in this video filmed November 22nd: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Scoble+revolv&sm=3

      A comment about Revolv left at Scoble’s is in tune with Daryl’s reaction. It reads:
      “This at least looks somewhat interesting. However, as someone who works in industrial and commercial building automation, most home automation is just pathetic, feature-poor, overpriced junk that tries to re-invent the wheels that we’ve rolled on for the last 10 years. I wish Tridium would take a scaled down version of their Sedona framework and make a real play for the home. They set the commercial market on its ear a decade ago with a feature-rich, partially open platform. They would run rings around most of these products. ”

      I don’t think replacing Tridium is the goal…And as you pointed out,BLE replacing other wireless comm is not the goal either. The future is one in which we’ll have a lot more context before an automated action is taken, eg automatically turning the lights or heat/cooling up or down. So this new sensor tech is complementing, not replacing. Scoble does another interview (with much better focus and production quality) with the founder of Estimote:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4B1J1YPQ5_g. The Estimote beacon devices come with temperature sensors – so easy to guess next moves. Beacons are designed first with the world of mobile computing and telecom relationships in mind. I think that’s the vector of disruption for the commercial building control and automation world.

  2. Daryl Clasen says:

    I think its funny all these software companies are trying to get into building automation touting all their favorite flavor of communication tech forgetting completely or mostly unaware how to handle something called a control network.

    Its also disgusting the US government hands out patents like candy to companies like Apple that simply took ideas already existing and wrap it around a mystery wrapper as unique.

    I suppose these items are simply “things” in your home but in a building its a different story. Cisco failed at this already a few years back and there will be more failures upcoming.

  3. […] what they are called on blue prints and schematics, and how they connect to the rest of the system. Apple iPhones are already equipped with iBeacon locators. We’re not far from the day when there will be mobile phone apps, that enable you to point to an […]

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