When I talk to people about indoor-tracking tools like iBeacon, which Apple launched at its US stores last Friday, they're both fascinated and frightened. They quickly appreciate how helpful a connected world can be when it knows where you are and what you're doing. But the steady of stream of news about privacy intrusions -- mostly by the NSA -- makes them wonder if the cost of allowing access to more personal data is really worth it.
Location is the cornerstone for contextual awareness, a collection of efforts aimed at giving our smartphones the tools they need to begin making timely, relevant suggestions and even take action on our behalf. Understanding that we're standing in front of the smartphones rather than the tablets is an important piece of the puzzle.
Apple introduced the iBeacon feature as part of the iOS 7 launch in September. It makes use of the iPhone's Bluetooth radio to communicate with other iOS 7 devices as well as compatible sensors placed at strategic spots around Apple stores. Among other things, the close-range nature of Bluetooth can be used to pinpoint a shopper's whereabouts to deliver location-specific messages. For example, someone with an older iPhone might get a trade-in offer while checking out the newer models.
The demand for insight into ever-more pots of your personal information is increasing just as the backlash from ongoing NSA revelations is making consumers more aware of the digital fingerprints they're leaving behind, and increasingly wary of those with access.
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