According to a report by the Associated Press, Apple just switched on iBeacons across its more than 200 retail stores worldwide. The technology, new in iOS 7, allows retailers to use Bluetooth to track shoppers inside a store, and serve specialized push notifications to them based on what they might be looking at.
In the case of Apple’s store on Fifth Avenue in New York City, the company has about 20 iBeacon transmitters set up, each set to track only a particular area, so that people standing in front of iPhone cases can get a recommendation about what case to buy.
For users who are concerned about privacy, the tracking only works if they have Bluetooth enabled and the Apple Store app running on their iPhone. After that, they need to give the app permission to use their location, and serve them with push notifications.
Though it’s a good problem to have, Apple’s retail stores are usually crowded during the holidays, which means salespeople are stretched thin. The iBeacons provide Apple with a way to try and sell customers products that they already might be interested in, without requiring a human sales rep break away from somebody else.
This certainly isn’t the first time a retailer has used tracking tech to help shoppers part with their money. Seattle-based startup Point Inside recently launched a new app in conjunction with Lowe’s that gives customers guidance about where to find items in the store. As it turns out, Point Inside is looking into what potential Apple’s technology might have for its platform.
CEO Josh Marti said that the company is investigating how to incorporate iBeacons into its StoreMode platform, but there are a number of hurdles to clear when it comes to figuring out how to best use iBeacons.
“Knowing Apple, we know there is more to come around the ecosystem plan for iBeacons beyond the hardware,” Marti said. “So far, iBeacons are like iPods without iTunes.”