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Apple rolls out its location-sensing iBeacon tech to message shoppers inside its stores

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Apple has flicked the switch on its iBeacon technology, so now shoppers at its 254 US stores can receive hopefully relevant information to their iDevices as they look around the store, though reports over the weekend by those who’ve had a chance to take a closer look at the service suggest it’ll have limited appeal among visitors to the tech giant’s brick-and-mortar retail sites.

The location-sensing technology can be used to send a variety of information to those nearby the iBeacon transmitters, including details on products, events, and offers.

According to an AP report over the weekend, Apple’s flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York has around 20 of the Bluetooth transmitters installed, with shoppers able to receive messages to their iPhone as they browse the store’s product’s.

“The beacons can be adjusted to specific distances, so you may get some notifications regardless of where you are inside,” the AP reports, adding, “Others will come only when you are standing at a particular aisle, wall or product demo table.”

According to Forbes’ Gary Allen, who’s had a chance to learn more about the micro-location tech, Apple’s use of iBeacon seems underwhelming, to say the least. With no special deals or discounts to speak of, Allen says the messages appear to be mainly “limited to two-sentence encouragements to trade in an old iPhone or reminders to use the Apple store app for product reviews.”

Allen also points out that for the tech to work, an iPhone user has to take a number of steps to enable it, and even then, they have to be looking at their handset as they walk around the store, or at the least be willing to grab it from their pocket or bag should a message come through.

Apple quietly introduced its iBeacon technology earlier this year with the launch of its all-new iOS 7 mobile operating system.

Macy’s last month began testing it out at stores in New York and San Francisco in partnership with shopping-app company Shopkick, alerting store visitors to discounts and recommendations, among other things.

With iBeacon yet to establish itself, we can expect to see its uses develop over time, with trail markers in parks and museum exhibits two other uses also suggested for the technology. As for its implementation at Apple stores, it sounds like the company has a little way to go before we see start seeing shoppers automatically going for their iPhone as they enter the store.

[Source: AP, Forbes]

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Trevor Mogg
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