Apple made headlines Friday by announcing iBeacon, new software that pushes notifications to users as they walk around the company's retail stores.
But what is iBeacon and how exactly does it work?
IBeacon doesn't track users. IOS devices using iBeacon simply send out signals through Bluetooth, similar to the way sonar works on submarines.
Once that signal reaches another Apple gadget, it will display a notification if the receiving device also has Bluetooth turned on, has the Apple Store app installed and has an owner who opted in to receive iBeacon notifications.
If the signal reaches multiple Apple devices at the same time, each of those devices will display the notification at the same time.
The only time iBeacon will display a notification customized to individual users is when a user has ordered an item online and has come to an Apple Store to pick it up. When the user enters the store, iBeacon will send a notification saying the item is ready.
Apple has set up iPhones, iPads and third-party boxes that are about the size of an Apple TV to use iBeacon at its stores.
Because iBeacon is a software feature, developers will soon be able to use it too. The Apple Store announcement is simply the first major deployment of the technology.
"We're really excited about what iOS developers will be able to do with iBeacon, a technology we introduced with iOS 7 that uses Bluetooth Low Energy and geofencing to provide apps a whole new level of micro-location awareness, such as trail markers in a park, exhibits in a museum or product displays in stores," the company told The Times.
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