iBeacon adds location-tracking to Apple store experience

Apple had two big announcements Friday: Its newest operating system, iOS 7, has had record adoption rates, and the app iBeacon will track customers' location in Apple stores to tailor the retail experience.

Customers shopped at the Apple Retail Store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York, Sept. 20, 2013.

Apple store users are about to find out what a truly personalized retail experience entails – now customized with every individual step.

Apple released iBeacon Friday, a service that uses GPS and location tracking to tell when a customer is near or inside an Apple store, then offers an array of shopping options controlled by an iPhone. So far it has been released in 254 stores across the United States on the heels of a widespread rollout of iOS 7, which could signal a impending trend in location-tracking apps.

When a customer is inside an Apple store, a message screen pops up with different shopping options, like “Easy Pay,” “Get Support,” and “Top Gifts.” These can be used as ways to seek assistance in the store, plus get tailored purchase suggestions depending on what items they are nearest to in the store. As customers walk around the store, more personalized suggestions will pop up. Walk past the iPhone table and a message will prompt customers to upgrade their device. Idle near the headphones and a list of available ear buds will appear on customers' screens.

However, this will only happen for customers who have downloaded the Apple Store app and given Apple permission to track movements, plus have Bluetooth enabled.

Now that the technology has come to the Apple platform, it is likely that other companies will use it as well. Already, Major League Baseball has announced it will use iBeacon to tailor stadium experiences next season, offering videos that play near landmarks and coupons when fans enter a retail store, according to The Associated Press.

This isn’t the first location-tracking app that has come to market. Another app, Shopkick, has offered in-store coupons at Macy’s, JCPenney, and other stores that pop up on a customers' screen when they walk in the door. However, iBeacon is the first to be developed specifically by Apple for iOS 7, which opens up possibilities for iOS 7 app developers.

This news comes in light of the revelation that Apple’s latest operating system, iOS 7, runs on three out of every four Apple devices. In the six weeks after its release and rollout on new devices, numbers from Apple’s iOS support site say that 74 percent of devices tapped into the App Store were running on iOS 7.

This is a far faster adoption rate than the previous OS, iOS 6, which only had an 83 percent adoption rate after six months, according to Computer World.

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