Texas Instruments to Use Apple’s iBeacon Location Technology

Source: Thinkstock

Texas Instruments (NASDAQ:TXN), the company that may have made your graphing calculator in high school, has announced that it’s adding iBeacon support to its Bluetooth LE chips and development kits. The company makes a wide range of electronic components, and its new support for iBeacon means that businesses and institutions may soon be able to interact with your iPhone in interesting new ways.

But let’s back up a little. IBeacon is a micro-location technology that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) introduced in iOS 7. Think of it as a super-precise GPS sensor that lets connected devices know exactly where you are, down to which product you’re standing near in a store. The range of the technology lets your phone communicate with other devices within about 160 feet of each other. It works on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) or Bluetooth Smart, which basically means that using it doesn’t burn through the battery life of your phone.

As stated in Texas Instruments’ press release, other applications of iBeacon include “apps with a whole new level of micro-location awareness, such as trail markers in a park, exhibits in a museum, or product displays in stores.” So the next time you go to a mall and you’re standing in front of a display, you may be able to pull out your phone to find specific information about the product you’re looking at. Or in another case, a retailer could send a coupon to your phone as you walk by the storefront, hoping to entice you to enter.

The technology also has a whole host of possibilities that haven’t been realized yet. In the press release, TI said: “Restaurants, retailers and even sports stadiums have started using iBeacon technology, but there are many more applications that could benefit from the technology. Everything from asset trackers, retail, building automation systems, automotive and industrial applications, and a wide variety of consumer electronics.” That may sound vague, but it goes to show how many possible applications this technology has.

Specifically, Texas Instruments is bringing iBeacon technology to the following products in its line:

  • Bluetooth Smart with SimpleLink CC2541 and CC2543 wireless microcontrollers (MCUs)
  • Bluetooth dual mode with the SimpleLink CC2564 solution and the BL6450Q automotive connectivity device
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth combo-connectivity with WiLink 8 and WiLink 8Q for automotive connectivity

TI has also released a new app called SensorTag that lets you upload a floor plan and place “SensorTags” to set up your own positioning system. The company said in its press release, “The app provides feedback on how near you are to the SensorTags and can launch a user-specified URL when you are in the immediate vicinity of a SensorTag.”

All told, TI is trying to make it easy for manufacturers to add iBeacon micro-location capabilities to their products. How businesses and organizations use the technology after that is up to them.

TI isn’t the only company making iBeacon news lately. Last month, Major League Baseball updated its At the Ballpark app to support iBeacon technology. The MLB announced that it’s added iBeacon support to 20 baseball stadiums this year. The way the league has used it so far is to let users of the app automatically check in as they enter the stadium.

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