Apple releases iBeacon specification

ibeacon tech

Apple’s iBeacons, an indoor positioning system that can detect nearby devices to optionally push promotional marketing messages, has been picking up considerable steam lately. For instance, such brands as Major League Baseball and Apple itself have implemented the system, as did various retailers, theme parksgrocery stores and even car accessory makers.

According to, Apple has now released detailed specification for the iBeacon platform. Released through Apple’s ‘Made for iPhone’ (MFi) initiative, the documents are apparently separate from Apple’s main Bluetooth MFi specification..

According to Apple, the full iBeacon specifications are available after signing an non-disclosure agreement. Applying to the program is free and allows accessory makers to use the iBeacon name.

Any device using the iBeacon name must have meaningful use for the trademark and tap energy-saving Bluetooth LE networking in compliance with Apple’s standards.

The publication explains:

There’s no particular restriction in place which makes an iBeacon incompatible with Android or other phones. So while a beacon might carry the iBeacon name, this simple means that it has access to the trademark and that it has been configured to work well with Apple devices.

The language of Apple’s terms doesn’t seem to impose any limitations on existing iBeacon-compatible devices.

That Apple would release the specification through the MFi program – separately from its main Bluetooth specification – signals that the firm aims to control how the iBeacon trademark is being used, without burdening device makers with stringent requirements akin to its Bluetooth MFi specification.

This helps distinguish iBeacons authorized by Apple from iBeacon-compatible products from third-parties that work on Android and other platforms, like Qualcomm’s new Gimbal platform or Philips’s smart lights (that also use micro-location tech). acknowledged as much:

While for now the trademark iBeacon is going to be applied to specific devices that have been certified under the Apple MFI program, we see it being used more broadly as Apple continues to enhance what’s possible in proximity-based experiences.

Apple applied for an ‘iBeacon’ trademark last November.

The application covers communication and GPS systems, network apparatus, audio apparatus and a long list of transmitters and interfaces.

Among a wide range of registered uses and scenarios: stuff like financial services, bill payment services, debit and credit card services, electronic payment services, business management, data processing services, advertising agency services, advertising, marketing, and promotion services, advertising and marketing consultation, sales promotion services, promoting the goods and services of others, conducting market research, analysis of advertising response and market research and so forth.

The document defines an iBeacon as a transmitter, the code and API which makes the use of Bluetooth LE protocols possible.

Although some users are dismissing iBeacons as another way to spam users with marketing messages that are of little interest to them, it’s worth remembering that it’s an opt-in of sorts: you have to approve receiving these messages on a per-vendor basis.

This usually entails downloading a free app by, say, a retailer which handles all iBeacon notifications from the retailer and displays them on your device, provided you’ve opted-in to receive Push Notifications for the app.