A few weeks ago at WWDC in San Francisco, Apple made a little public mention of its new iBeacons feature in iOS 7. Its details are still under the developers’ NDA and will be public with the new operating system hopefully in September, but many articles and detailed rumors explained how it might work.
Basically, all Apple devices - thanks to Bluetooth Low Energy - could trigger Minority Report-style interactions, activating different phone actions just by approaching devices that act as beacons.
How to use two iOS6 devices to simulate the iBeacon behavior?
If you don’t want to wait until September and would like to experiment with micro-location, there is an easy way to use the CoreBluetooth framework and the ability to act as a Bluetooth Smart peripheral device. After initializing CBPeripheralManager, the following code is all we need to turn on one of your iOS devices, for example white iPhone into a beacon broadcasting Bluetooth Low Energy advertising data.
The black iPhone will have to turn into Bluetooth Low Energy listening mode and once it is in the range (2 inches to 200 feet, 5 cm to 70 m) of the white phone it will pickup the signal and could read the advertising data and calculate the white phone signal strength called RSSI. The far away from the virtual beacon you are the lower RSSI is.
Now, using for examples dummy conditionals you could simply show different actions like messages depending on the RSSI value.
You can browse and download the entire Xcode project for both of these broadcasting and receiving examples from our GitHub repository:
Before launching the app, make sure you have Bluetooth enabled on your iOS devices. You also need to use iPhone 4S, iPhone 5 or new iPad or iPad mini, because those are the only Apple devices that support Bluetooth Low Energy. Even though it is just a simple demo it takes a while to launch, so please be patient.
We could assume that iBeacon is simply something that leverages a similar technique and introduces some signal-to-noise filtering in order to achieve stable near-field communication actions.
Now, you could stick one of your devices to the wall in your room and post messages to Twitter or Foursquare check-ins whenever you walk in to particular location.
If you prefer to stick cheaper, third-party devices acting as beacons you could still pre-order our Estimote Beacons, which we launched last month and will be shipping within only a few weeks.