iBeacon for My World – We aren’t there yet…

May 29, 2014

in General Interest

20140529-132730-48450857.jpgI’ve been experimenting with Apple iBeacon again. A simple method using “Launch Here” and “Locate iB”. Using these too together will demonstrate how to manage proximity to a single iBeacon and present a simple launcher. I’ll highlight some of the issues below and let’s hope that iOS 8 actually brings the changes. I’ll also list some areas when I’m looking to just run some additional tests.

Launch Here for iPhone provides the fastest way to launch an app tied to a spot at your home – A timer when you’re next to the coffee maker, a remote when you sit down on your sofa or a to do app at your desk.  As soon as you are nearby a placed iBeacon and you turn on your lock screen, the app of your choice will appear as notification – Launch it with a simple swipe. Convenient and efficient.  via Launch Here ◌ iBeacon based App Shortcuts.

Locate iB -Makes your device transmit as an iBeacon with configurable identifiers. Finds nearby iBeacons with real-time distance estimates and displays all identifiers of each one discovered. Provides alerts when iBeacons are around and allows you to calibrate iBeacons you own. This app requires a device with Bluetooth Low Energy. via Locate for iBeacon on the App Store on iTunes.

What isn’t quite right with iBeacon today? Apple’s iBeacon iOS remains clumsy in launching Apps or completing activities / background tasks for me when I’m in their proximity. I look at this as iBeacon for my world.

Launch Here provides an easy method to launch an app from the lock screen notification. However, consider the steps. I’m in location of an iBeacon. I get the notification. Slide to open, provide pass code…. and then see the Launch Here briefly and then opens my set app (Remote).  Frankly it is quicker to open the “Remote App” by just hitting the home button and then the Remote App. Yes would save time if a password requirement was not present. This is no fault of the App this is a limitation imposed by Apple. So there are two areas that need real improvement for the IoT world to take a step forward.

1. We need to be able to manipulate certain apps on the lock screen. Example. I return home. I want “Hue” on my lock screen so I can adjust my HUE lights instantly. I may also want the lights to automatically go on when I enter the room. Some of this could already be made to work better. Example the “Hue” app could have an iBeacon capability built into it. I’d then have to add some iBeacons into the house (would be better if next generation HUE bulbs actually had BluetoothLE and acted as ibeacons too). Right now there is too much friction in the launching the app stage from the home screen to make apps on demand really effective. This request is really a “remote for life” observation. The remote must be instantly available and not two clicks in.

Use of the Apple Remote for use with AppleTV or iTunes is a great example of where iBeacon and the Remote should come together. Note while I can set up my AppleTV using my phone and bridge by iBeacon the signal is not available for me to use the Launch Here app to manage my remote. We can expect that the next real upgrade of the Apple Remote App will enable this “proximity” feature.

This launch friction is less of an issue if I go into an Apple store and then it kicks open a notification to the Apple App. Similarly, in the Starbucks store where iBeacons and location are integrated into the APP. However, not everyone will want this functionality or want to turn it on. In fact perhaps iBeacon by app should be optional.

2. Set up Background Activities.  Like the HUE example above I’d just like things to go on. I already use IFTTT to complete certain actions. Let’s imagine I now buy a Radius Networks USB Beacon and plug it into a USB charger in my Car. Now when I get in my car and insert my phone in the dash mount Waze opens and Music starts streaming. Nothing to do. I could also get it to do other things. Example run Motion-X GPS in the background and I hope that one day… when I leave the car it can simply create a blogpost with map of my route taken. This is an example of where iBeacon starts working for me, capturing my information. Yet the barrier to this too is the lock screen.

I’m also looking at this with an eye on both mobile ethnography and also opportunities to “triangulate” location with an even greater level of accuracy. Example include asking people to participate when in certain locations although this could be done when near a beacon one might want to connect only with those that make a beeline for something. So movement will be important determinants of context and action.

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