Apple has put a dedicated beacon device through FCC testing, but as it is outlined in the documents, the product seems clunky and odd.


The discovery this weekend of an FCC application made on behalf of Apple has the tech press excited about new hardware from Cupertino. This time, it’s a Bluetooth-capable box labeled with Apple’s iBeacon and powered by USB. The press is speculating that this device may never see the light of day, could be used in retail stores or that it may become part of Apple’s smart home tie in with HomeKit.

All of these are plausible, but I’m perplexed by the design as it stands right now. Having a dedicated Beacon makes sense in the retail environment, but having it be USB powered seems a bit odd. Actually having stand-alone devices seems a bit odd. A more logical place for any beacons would be out of sight and with its own dedicated power thanks to integrating it into something else. You probably don’t want employees moving it around too much either messing with your data coming off the device. I’d expect them integrated into lighting fixtures or even shelves or displays.

As for the home, I think using Bluetooth LE for presence in the home makes sense, but I would expect Apple to have a more elegant approach. It already has the AirPort Express Wi-Fi routers, why not build beacons into those? Or build it into other Apple-branded connected gear. I’ve long thought that smart outlets or switches would be a great home for a beacon. And there are a huge number of lightbulbs, plus Bluetooth speaker projects out there, so perhaps light bulbs might be the future home of a Beacon.

So if this is indeed an Apple product that will one day be released to the masses, I’m hoping it’s a short-time retrofit kind of device, because I don’t think I want a dozen dangling USB-powered boxes hanging off the walls. And I’m not sure retailers would either.

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  1. It’s not that odd. They can be plugged into $1 AC wallwarts. You can get those $1 wallwarts with any worldwide plug configuration.

    More likely, it has a battery inside and the USB power is optional. Plus the USB port is used for updating the software.

  2. Certainly room for debating if standalone beacons are the right approach to BLE / indoor location hardware, but can’t debate momentum behind BLE hardware space -> 60 million shipments by 2019 ow.ly/z8uqu

  3. Gary Dauphin Monday, July 14, 2014

    “clunky and odd?” iBeacon was meant to be a “used but not seen” technology. WGAF?

  4. Nikohl Vandel Monday, July 14, 2014

    but, y does one need a beacon and y does the fcc have regulation over them?

  5. Nikohl Vandel Monday, July 14, 2014

    maybe its a blonde moment, but, y does 1 need a beacon and y does the fcc have regulation over them?

  6. Cash Register accessory?

    1. Stacey Higginbotham Chuck Monday, July 14, 2014

      I thought of that too. It makes sense and in large department stores there are registers all over.

  7. The FCC filing lists an operating voltage 3.7V.
    From that it’s clear it has a battery and Li-Ion rechargeable one at that.

    Criticising unreleased products based on just FCC filings without even understanding them… GigamOm keeps on digging new lows.