The iPhone 5S is going to have a much larger impact than some of its incremental upgrades may you lead you to believe. The 5S and Apple’s forthcoming mobile operating system iOS 7 will affect smartphone user interface design, fitness apps, indoor mapping, and mobile’s usage in retail, just to name a few.
The motion sensing M7 coprocessor within the iPhone 5S makes Apple’s flagship mobile device more intelligent. It offers a more powerful and efficient way for the iPhone to capture ambient location data and data from the device’s accelerometer. The iPhone 5S is going to have a significant impact on indoor location positioning and location mapping. The M7’s ability to offer always-on location and movement sensing without acting as a constant battery drain will make people’s devices even smarter companions. This data can be leveraged across a range of applications, from fitness and healthcare to retail.
One of the most frustrating aspects of mobile is the issues one runs into when attempting to use a smartphone indoors. Spotty cellphone coverage notwithstanding, we have become dependent on our smartphones for contextual information and directions.
Our devices are intelligent enough to navigate us through shopping malls and grocery stores, but granular indoor location is a very difficult nut to crack. Using GPS data alone only provides a wide snapshot of a user’s location. It doesn’t offer the finite location awareness that’s required to accurately navigate through indoor spaces, or to fully use the phone’s intelligence to make it come alive in these environments.
Say hello to Bluetooth Low Energy, more commonly referred to as BLE, and Apple iBeacons. The technology I’m referring to will be activated through Apple’s iOS7 release. BLE is an efficient means of sending small packets of data across distances of up to 50 meters. It’s built specifically to consume low amounts of power, thus offering significant advantages over traditional Bluetooth.
Apple’s iBeacon is the company’s key application of BLE, enabling small wireless sensors placed in physical locations to transmit data to your phone. As detailed in a recent GigaOM article, Apple’s native iBeacon support in iOS 7 opens the door to a world of possibilities.
Essentially iBeacon can transmit customized coupons or even walking directions to the aisle where a particular item is located. It can prompt a customer with special promotions or a personalized messages and recommendations based on their current location or past history with the company. Smartphones that are in an iBeacon zone will benefit from personalized microlocation-based notification and actions.
In the age of context, iBeacon can provide the information you need when it is needed. Just like NFC, iBeacons even allow you to pay the bill using your smart phone. The best part? iBeacon can run for up to two years on a single coin battery and it comes with accelerometer, flash memory, a powerful ARM processor and Bluetooth connectivity. Also, you can add more sensors to iBeacon to provide better context.
The iPhone 4S was the first Apple device to support BLE. It’s Apple’s native iBeacon support within iOS 7, however, that will push the technology into the mainstream. PayPal has already announced a new mobile payment option that leverages smart beacons. Startups Estimote and Sonic Notify have begun selling physical beacons that can be placed in a range of locations. Countless companies will leverage the technology to make our world more interactive.