The discovery this weekend of an FCC application made on behalf of Apple(s aapl) 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.