One of the coolest new features Apple introduced in iOS 7 is support for iBeacons, small Bluetooth sensors that create a “beacon” around a region so an app can alert you when you enter one. And starting today, users can put this technology to the test at the Apple Store, according to The Associated Press. The report says that Apple is planning to switch on iBeacons throughout its 254 U.S. retail stores starting today.
I contacted Apple’s 24-hour Fifth Avenue location in New York City, which has about 20 iBeacons transmitters placed throughout the store, to ask if they are currently active. The store representative I spoke with said he couldn’t comment on whether the iBeacons are live, but that the Apple Store app has recently been updated with iBeacon support.
So if you what to give it a try, you’ll need a device running iOS 7 with Bluetooth enabled. Then you need to download the Apple Store app, and agree to receive in-store notifications and let Apple track your location. (By their very nature, location-sensing iBeacons are not intended for use by those concerned with having their location tracked.) Once you enter a store and your device is recognized, the app should automatically switch to “in-store mode.”
This allows Apple to deliver a number of helpful messages to your device. If you’re walking past an iPhone display, for instance, the app might check your iPhone upgrade availability and whether you can trade in your current phone. Or it can simply notify you if something you ordered is ready for in-store pickup, which you can then show to a store a clerk.
Aside from the Apple Store, expect iBeacons to start popping up in a lot more places in the future. Macy’s is currently testing iBeacons through the Shopkick app, and the MLB has confirmed that iBeacons will make their way to a number of stadiums in the future.
For now, though, you should be able to get a taste of the new technology at your local Apple store.