I was chairing Short Range Wireless Forum in Amsterdam 2006 and NFC was the hot topic of the day since Nokia announced the first NFC phone the day before. But the combination of its limitations and the fact that only some vendors decided to implement NCF seriously made it yet another promising technology that never took off. These days Apple is introducing iPhone 5C / 5S and iOS7. This launch is as always followed and debated by a lot of people but still very few seem to have captured iBeacon. I believe that is yet a significant enabler by Apple which rapidly will become an important building block for Internet of Things applications and could make NFC redundant.Imagine entering into an indoor location like a University Campus. Your iPhone connects to iBeacon automatically over Bluetooth and depending on who you are it will provide you with directions where to go for the next class, it will take you to the canteen and take care of the payment leaving you with a receipt. One build wireless coverage in a location quite cheaply. Lets move to a department store, shopping mall or train station and the use cases are easy to see.A beacon, or mote, is like a lighthouse for radio transmission. Estimote is s startup providing beacons supporting iBeacon. The beacons are a couple of centimeters big and include an ARM processor, accelerometer, flash memory and Bluetooth connectivity. A beacon could cover up to 50 m radius and have battery life time of around 24 months. Estimotes developer kits give you three beacons for 99$ which gives us an idea of price points.iBeacon leverage Bluetooth 4.0 (also called Bluetooth Low Energy BLE or Bluetooth Smart) which was approved in July 2010 and is told to be a stable platform to develop solutions on. With over 19.000 companies as members in Bluetooth SIG and over 2.5 Billion products shipped Bluetooth is a well supported technology across industries. I believe developers will love this technology and application enabler why pick-up will happen quickly and massively. When we look back at these announcements a couple of years from now I think we will conclude that Bluetooth 4 was the real breakthrough for Bluetooth, iBeacon enabled a new generation of apps and NFC didn’t make it.Exciting times!
People are working hard to find clever ways to embed connectivity into things in a cheap, scalable and non-complicated fashion. Tethercell is an excellent example of that! By re-designing the content of the most used standard battery – AA – they make you able to master and control a whole lot of things from your iPhone. Parents with kids using noisy toys can secretly turn them off when they had too much for example. The product which looks like an AA battery includes advanced technology and an AAA-battery for power. It is remotely managed via Bluetooth 4.0 and a free IOS-app. Bluetooth 4.0 is the latest revision of the wireless protocol and it brings primarily much better power efficiency through Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), also referred to as Bluetooth Smart.
The product allows you to turn AA-powered devices on and off remotely, give alerts when power is low and it allows you to set simple timers and device schedules to save battery power.
Tethercell is yet another crowdfunded product using indiegogo.com and with about a month ago they have raised about 25% of the $59 000 US they aim for. $35 US gives you one battery and the app to control it and estimated landing is June 2013.