Do Apple and Bluetooth offer a beacon of hope to the high street?

This week it emerged how various retailers were working with a host of WPP entities ranging from its out-of-home media (OOH), media-buying, plus mobile-specialist arms to trials Apple’s iBeacons. 

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This has generated quite a bit of interest, primarily, I believe because it has that special Apple magic that captures the interest of the mass market – similar to how Apple galvanised both the smartphone and tablet markets.

To recap quickly, the trials involve using iBeacons (a software update issued as part of Apple’s recent iOS7 launch that relies on Bluetooth technology).

Joule, Kinetic and Mindshare, plus mobile specialist independent agency Somo, are in separate talks to trial the Apple software, primarily to use it as an in-store marketing tool to help combat ‘showrooming’. This is where a consumer researches a purchase in a physical store while simultaneously checking competitors’ prices online.

Since unveiling iBeacons at its most recent developer conference, Apple has been largely quiet about the new development, although surely discussions to formalise it into an offering for brands and retailers (similar to iAd) must be taking place.

While this may offer retailers a chance to take advantage of a consumer behaviour already taking place, I wonder exactly what terms will Apple require such companies to sign up to?

We know historical precedent (such as the launch of iAd and the early days of the App Store) that Apple is not always the easiest company to work with. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it insists upon terms and conditions that many would describe as onerous.

Similarly, what does this development mean for the many businesses that have pegged their fortunes to NFC (think of companies like Google, Nokia, Samsung, Visa, etc).

I was astonished when I heard that iBeacons run on Bluetooth technology (something which I thought was left behind along with ringback tones). 

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