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Tales From The Future (tftf). I picked my nickname because many advisors and investors claim they can predict the future of the (stock) markets and somehow pick the winners. I don't. I usually do not engage in short-term trading and myopic analysis (quarter by quarter, without looking at the big... More
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  • 99% Of AAPL Analysts Missed IBeacons Potential - Move Over, NFC 24 comments
    Sep 12, 2013 2:14 PM | about stocks: AAPL

    Now that the long-rumored "Touch ID" (fingerprint sensor in the new iPhone 5S following the Authentec buyout by Apple) is reality, some analysts and AAPL watchers see the longer-term potential for

    - personal identification

    - transactions of all kinds (data exchange, payments, physical access)

    So far so good.

    Transactions with "Touch ID" are just working on iTunes for the time being, third parties don't have access (yet). A middle ground would be to enable the Passbook app with "Touch ID" support in the future.

    But doesn't Apple still miss NFC for transactions? Haven't analysts clamored for years that Apple should (finally) add NFC chips to their phones?

    NFC may work fine for payments and other use cases in proximity, i.e. very short distances, but not for everything else:

    This year's WWDC (Apple's Developer Conference) news combined with the new "Touch ID" fingerprint sensor shipping in some of the new iPhones should finally provide an answer - enter iBeacons:

    (Image Source)

    Apple's implementation works over a wider range in physical spaces with no quasi-physical access (ie. no direct NFC "bumps") required!

    Rather than to rehash, I will link to this excellent article from GigaOM:

    With iBeacon, Apple is going to dump on NFC and embrace the internet of things

    Using Bluetooth Low Energy(NYSEMKT:BLE), iBeacon opens up a new whole dimension by creating a beacon around regions so your app can be alerted when users enter them. Beacons are a small wireless sensors placed inside any physical space that transmit data to your iPhone using Bluetooth Low Energy (also known as Bluetooth 4.0 and Bluetooth Smart).

    For example, imagine you walk into a mall with an iPhone 5s (comes with iOS 7 and iBeacon). You are approaching a Macy's store, which means your iPhone is entering into Macy's iBeacon region. Essentially iBeacon can transmit customized coupons or even walking directions to the aisle where a particular item is located. It can prompt a customer with special promotions or a personalized messages and recommendations based on their current location or past history with the company. Smartphones that are in an iBeacon zone will benefit from personalized microlocation-based notification and actions.

    In the age of context, iBeacon can provide the information you needed when it is needed. Just like NFC, iBeacons even allow you to pay the bill using your smart phone. The best part? iBeacon can run for up to two years on a single coin battery and it comes with accelerometer, flash memory, a powerful ARM processor and Bluetooth connectivity. Also, you can add more sensors to iBeacon to provide better context.


    iBeacon could be a NFC killer because of its range. NFC tags are pretty cheap compared to NFC chips, but NFC tags are required on each product because NFC works only in very close proximity. In theory, NFC range is up to 20cm (7.87 inches), but the actual optimal range is less than 4cm (1.57 inches). Also, mobile devices need to contain a NFC chip that can handle any NFC communications. On the other hand, iBeacons are a little expensive compared to NFC chips, but iBeacons range is up to 50 meters. Not all phones have NFC chips, but almost all have Bluetooth capability.


    AppleInsider was one of the first publications to discuss these options in June 2013:

    This particular application makes iBeacons an extension of the geofencing Apple enabled in last year's Passbook, which lets an installed pass, ticket or loyalty card popup on the lock screen when you cross the geofence threshold of a defined GPS location. Using BLE, a merchant or other provider can define more targeted "micro-locations" to trigger an alert, in some cases requiring that you be in the presence of an iBeacon in order to validate a Passbook entry.


    In short iBeacons is geo-fencing on a smaller physical scale than Wi-Fi or mobile tower triangulation. It's ideally suited for information access and mobile commerce in a shop, museum, cinema or similar locations - direct NFC "bumps" are no longer required, but iBeacons/BLE can also worky at very close ranges for payments. Apple apparently discussed three ranges at WWDC: Immediate (payments) - Near - Far.

    Now go back and read all analyst reports on AAPL from the September 10, 2013 iPhone and the prior WWDC event. How many mentioned the word "iBeacons"?

    To credit Seeking Alpha, there was at least one author casually mentioning iBeacons back in July 2013, but he seemed to have missed its impact:

    The new iOS 7 will bring new features, such as iBeacons and even motion detection, but the most striking feature may unfortunately be the change in how the iPhone's default icons appear. This may not be enough to spur growth and excitement for the iPhone.


    (I searched for "iBeacons" on the Seeking Alpha website as well as the professional analyst reports available to me. If you have professional AAPL analyst reports discussing iBeacons before September 2013, thanks for mentioning them in a comment below or in a message.)

    Summary: In my view, the future potential of a fingerprint ID sensor in combination wth iBeacons/Bluetooth Low Energy has been missed:

    Touch ID coupled with iBeacons could be the new Apple ID for the physical world in 2014 and beyond once it's available on all iPhones - this technology combo could be ideally suited for the rumored iWatch project as well (and possibly Touch ID buttons on Macbooks).

    PS: I already mentioned iBeacons in my longer Instablog entry (Five Take-Aways from Apple's iPhone event) yesterday but opined the topic was worth its own blog entry - since 99% of analysts seemed to focus on shiny new iPhone 5C color patterns rather than iBeacons' potential.

    Disclosure: I am long AAPL.

    Disclosure: The author is long AAPL.

    Stocks: AAPL
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Comments (24)
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  • Tales From The Future
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    Author’s reply » TheVerge published an article on the technology as well:


    Earlier today, Apple unveiled two new iPhones, neither of which support NFC — a competing technology that lets devices communicate when they’re held within a few inches of one another. Over the past two years, NFC's absence from Apple hardware has been frequently cited as a weakness compared to competing platforms like Android and Windows Phone. But in 2013, the general dearth of infrastructure and services supporting NFC combined with the possibility of indoor mapping and other applications afforded by Bluetooth's longer range (over 150 feet) look like they could vindicate Apple’s decision to stay away.


    It’s important to note that Apple’s devices aren’t the only ones to support Bluetooth Low Energy; the majority of phones on the market today implement the specification. And the products and services that take advantage of it are still in early development. Both PayPal and Estimote say that they’re hoping to release their products early next year, although they're soliciting developers interested in an early look. By the same token, mapping and shopping are only the most likely applications for Apple’s iBeacons profile, and there’s a good chance we’ll see even more interesting ideas sprout up once people get their hands on the new tech.


    12 Sep 2013, 02:53 PM Reply Like
  • Julian Acosta
    , contributor
    Comments (129) | Send Message
    What prevents BLE-enabled Android phones from taking advantage of these as well?
    12 Sep 2013, 04:09 PM Reply Like
  • Tales From The Future
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    Comments (7743) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Yes, BLE is on most modern smartphones. But:


    1. BLE is one part, the other part is the fingerprint sensor in my opinion. The *combination* of the two is very powerful and user-friendly for transactions.


    2. Fragmentation among other makers (especially on Android) will make it hard to implement this. AAPL has one central Passbook app and Fingerprint reader and most users upgrading to the latest iOS asap (see OS statistics). In contrast, many Android are still on version 2.x today, for example.


    I imagine all new iPhone models to ship with Touch ID by late 2014 (as iPhone 5C is replaced by a newer model).


    Imagine paying by simply touching your iWatch (no need to walk to the counter or another device for a "NFC bump") without entering a passcode.


    Of course, neither third-party payments nor the iWatch are real in 2013, but this looks like a reasonable scenario and explain why AAPL never adopted NFC chips (which baffled many since 2011).
    12 Sep 2013, 04:17 PM Reply Like
  • User7766461
    , contributor
    Comments (158) | Send Message
    Thanks again for the insight
    12 Sep 2013, 05:59 PM Reply Like
  • Tales From The Future
    , contributor
    Comments (7743) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » For those interested in more technical details, here are some slides about iBeacon:




    Someone commenting there grasped its importance:


    "Incredible. Looking through all the various posts about iOS 7 and this is the only mention about iBeacon. And virtually no response to it either. This very well may be the most overlooked feature of iOS 7.


    The implications of iBeacon are enormous and I don't think anything else in iOS 7 comes even close in terms of intriguing potential. Micro-location services has the potential to change almost every aspect of our lives. Mobile payments is the most obvious implementation."


    Now we can sit back and relax until the term "iBeacons" in combination with fingerprint scans will be all over the financial media...until then, CNBC can report on the colors of the new iPhone 5C :-)
    12 Sep 2013, 06:05 PM Reply Like
  • Tales From The Future
    , contributor
    Comments (7743) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Here's another article from late August 2013 citing the original article on AppleInsider and adding some info/context about other AAPL buyouts:


    "Why Micro-Location iBeacons May Be Apple's Biggest New Feature For iOS 7"


    "It is worth noting that two of Apple’s recent acquisitions, the indoor mapping company WiFiSLAM and mass transit mapper Embark, both potentially relate to this technology. Navigating real-world commerce and public transportation are just the kind of everyday ordeals that we hope our iPhones can help relieve for us. And don’t forget how important little micro-location cues will be for navigational, transactional and health-related iWatch apps. Not only can a wearable receive this kind of information through a paired smartphone, but the iWatch may be an iBeacon itself. Think of the app possibilities with all that!"


    12 Sep 2013, 07:11 PM Reply Like
  • Tales From The Future
    , contributor
    Comments (7743) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Another article with NFC vs BLE, more skeptical of BLE, painting it as a AND, not an either-or with NFC:


    "Let's say you're in a mall," he said. "GPS tells you you're in a mall. Wi-Fi positioning tells you what store you're at. Bluetooth can tell you you're looking at the jeans section. NFC tells you about the specific pair of jeans."


    And continues:




    Rosenberg sees BLE as suitable for things like gaming or quickly tracking items in short-term situations such as moving a group of barrels from point A to point B. But he has a number of concerns. "While (BLE) is low power, it still requires power," he said. "And its accuracy isn't very good, so you might be told you're in the section next to the one where you actually are. I've had that happen during multiple tests."


    Also, he said, Bluetooth is part of the junk spectrum, sharing the same frequency as many cordless phones and microwaves and working on nearly the same frequency as Wi-Fi. "While the technology is nifty and has potential, it's still something that can't truly be implemented seamless into the real world"


    And BLE is expensive, he said. "For NFC, you're literally paying pennies. BLE devices are around $30 each."


    Not either-or


    Steve Gurley, president of Pyrim Technologies, a mobile business and new market development company, is also dubious about the NFC-vs.-BLE argument. "I absolutely do not see BLE as a replacement for NFC," he said. "I see them as complementary and not competitive. BLE is primarily a location positioning technology that can also deliver content within a confined geographic area. NFC is a physical object engagement technology. Both have distinct use-cases that do not conflict. I do think BLE has a future. Like NFC, tag management and cost will be a big issue connected with its deployment."


    Gurley noted that the overarching discussion of NFC and BLE oversimplifies how NFC works. The technology has three modes: peer-to-peer, payments and read/write. He can see BLE replacing P2P, but not the other facets.


    "You have to look at it; will it eliminate 1, 2 or 3?" he said. "I don't see anyone talking about NFC in that vein. But you cannot effectively evaluate NFC from a global perspective. You have to look at it by mode of application.""


    Taking stock of Apple's iBeacon
    Tags: Handsets / Devices, NFC, Technology Providers
    September 13, 2013 - Cary Stemle




    Have to disagree with the quote. I agree with the first comment added to that article (see in link), BLE can be used for payments. BLE pricing may fall considerably and not every item in the store has to be tagged (it may still be tagged with NFC for internal use and scans):


    "I have to strongly disagree with several of the assertions made in this article, particularly those with respect to the accuracy and cost of BLE.


    Although the maximum range of BLE is far more than the few inches of NFC, signal processing and software can ensure that pairing occurs only between intended devices. Don’t believe it? Our company, TapBase has considerable experience with both NFC and BLE and has demonstrated short-range BLE transactions between standard iPads and iPhones.


    BLE is not expensive compared to NFC; in fact, it may be cheaper. Mr. Rosenberg is comparing the cost of a BLE beacon to an NFC tag, when the correct comparison should be BLE beacon to NFC reader. No retailer in the right mind would contemplate BLE at the item level, but I’ve never seen a pair of jeans with a relatively expensive NFC tag either. Barcodes and EPC tags – sure, but not NFC.


    But technology specifications aside, this article makes no reference to why BLE may succeed where NFC has faltered. BLE is an open standard that requires no access to the coveted ‘secure element’. Apple have even opened up access and BLE devices that communicate with the latest iOS devices no longer require Apple’s authentication chips and stamp of approval. This is important. Hopefully, we won’t see a repeat of the blocking that has plagued the NFC eco-system. Interesting times for mobile payments.


    Bob Mallett
    15 Sep 2013, 06:30 PM Reply Like
  • Tales From The Future
    , contributor
    Comments (7743) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Let's not forget Paypal is also experimenting with BLE:


    Now PayPal has added a new feature, powered by Bluetooth called the “Beacon.”  The merchant plugs the Beacon in and it’s ready to interact with the Point of Sale (POS) system.  The consumer opts in (an important option) and selects the merchants he or she is willing to interact with. The consumer also is able to pick the hands-free vs. typed confirmation option.  Verbal confirmation is all that’s required.


    PayPal has sweetened the pot by also offering a location-based service that lets you know nearby merchants that accept this form of payment.






    BLE was chosen to resolve some problems posed by traditional geo-location, Marcus said, including power consumption. It will work for any store running a PayPal-compatible POS system, and will only transmit information to PayPal or to the merchant if the customer agrees to check in.


    Marcus said the solution aims to improve on the credit-card-swiping experience. "That's hard," he said. "No one wakes up in the morning and thinks, 'I wish someone had invented something better than swiping a card to pay.' ... We figured the only better way to pay would be to do nothing."


    The company will begin piloting Beacon in the fourth quarter.


    New app


    PayPal's vastly redesigned app is getting a lot of kudos across the Web for creating a more seamless in-store shopping experience.


    A new tab called "Shop," the first thing that appears when the app is opened, displays nearby stores or restaurants that accept PayPal payments. Users can check in and open a tab, then select various payment methods from the check-in screen. Upon payment, the app generates a confirmation alert and sends an email receipt.


    "You've really got access to your entire wallet in the app," Hill Ferguson, VP, global product at PayPal, wrote on the company blog.




    PS: Exchange the word Shop with Passbook in the comment above. Apple could implement a similar system using Touch ID and Passbook. Passbook will also add the ability to scan barcodes in iOS7.
    15 Sep 2013, 06:47 PM Reply Like
  • Tales From The Future
    , contributor
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    Author’s reply » More details about the QR code scanner implemented in Passbook on iOS7, it will only work for Passbook codes:


    15 Sep 2013, 07:37 PM Reply Like
  • Tales From The Future
    , contributor
    Comments (7743) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » One more addition: I forgot to mention the Passif buyout in August 2013, reported by Jessica Lessin:


    "Exclusive: Apple Recently Acquired Low-Energy Chipmaker Passif"


    "The company in recent months purchased Silicon Valley-based wireless chip developer, Passif Semiconductor, according to people briefed on the deal. Passif develops communication chips that use very little power. Its technology, which includes a radio that works with a low-energy version of Bluetooth called Bluetooth LE, is promising for health-monitoring and fitness devices that need extra-long battery life. (Apple, of course, is working on one of those.) "


    18 Sep 2013, 07:57 AM Reply Like
  • Tales From The Future
    , contributor
    Comments (7743) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » This Quora answer was ahead of its time about the iPhone 4S and BLE:


    18 Sep 2013, 08:14 AM Reply Like
  • Tales From The Future
    , contributor
    Comments (7743) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Another good article on iBeacons' potential:


    The Rise of iBeacon


    17 Nov 2013, 03:19 AM Reply Like
  • Tales From The Future
    , contributor
    Comments (7743) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » The first payment systems using iBeacon arrive:


    PassMarket beats Apple to the punch with iBeacon-based mobile payments


    By leveraging Apple's iBeacon microlocation technology, iMobile3's new PassMarket Beacon Edition will allow customers at participating retailers to check out without swiping a credit card or handing over cash.


    14 Jan 2014, 03:16 AM Reply Like
  • Tales From The Future
    , contributor
    Comments (7743) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Another new patent:


    Apple Investigating iBeacon-Assisted Mobile Payment Methods


    "The payment method described in the patent may use NFC as well as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to connect the mobile device to the point-of-sale terminal. Though iBeacon is not directly named in the patent, it is easy to see how the technology could be used as the conduit for the secure Bluetooth connection. Apple even notes in the patent that NFC "is less desirable for longer transactions," while Wi-Fi or Bluetooth has "more desirable characteristics for maintaining the link over time than NFC." "


    16 Jan 2014, 10:46 AM Reply Like
  • Tales From The Future
    , contributor
    Comments (7743) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » The mainstream business press is finally catching up with iBeacons, for example here:


    BEACONS: What They Are, How They Work, And Why Apple's iBeacon Technology Is Ahead Of The Pack


    Read more: http://read.bi/19KOnVH


    (dated Jan 18 2014)
    21 Jan 2014, 09:50 AM Reply Like
  • Tales From The Future
    , contributor
    Comments (7743) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Another rumor including all three technologies


    - iBeacons
    - Touch ID
    - NFC


    on the iPhone6.


    "Apple Reportedly Integrating NFC Technology into iPhone 6"




    It's certainly possible, there are more NFC applications in the Europe and Asia - but there have been many flas starts about NFC and Apple/iPhones in the past.


    The interesting thing to see would be how Apple could integrate all three technologies to solve different use cases (mobile payments, ID checks etc.)
    12 May 2014, 08:41 AM Reply Like
  • Tales From The Future
    , contributor
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    Author’s reply » Author’s reply » Another rumor on NFC:


    "Apple Predicted to Adopt NFC in iPhone 6 as Core Technology for Mobile Payments System"


    " Morgan Stanley is certainly not the only source to be sharing rumors of NFC support for the iPhone 6, with Brightwire citing its own sources earlier this month and high-profile KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo making his own claims last month."




    We will find out in autum if this is finally it after many false starts.


    I still expect NFC to "only" complement iBeacon, AirDrop, indoor navigation (WiFiSlam...) and other use cases based on Bluetooth and WiFi if it's added to the iPhone 6.
    20 May 2014, 09:10 PM Reply Like
  • Tales From The Future
    , contributor
    Comments (7743) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » More on the NFC rumor here:


    "NFC, finally


    Apple was ready to include an near field communication (NFC) radio in the last round of iPhones, but the company pulled the plug on the feature because the nascent mobile payments ecosystem was too stratified and immature.


    Apple is now ready to pull the trigger on NFC. An NFC radio has been designed into the iPhone 6 and will enable mobile payments in the way that Android phones using Google Wallet already do.


    We’re unclear if Apple has aligned itself with the ISIS wireless payments standard, which is backed by a consortium of credit card companies and banks. It is more likely that Apple will go with its own mobile payments standard, which will compete with both ISIS and Google Wallet.


    This may confuse things in mobile payments further, because merchants will likely want to wait until one wireless payments standard becomes dominant so that they’ll have to switch out their point-of-sales systems only once."




    So we might see a combination of iBeacon, TouchID and NFC working together as a mobile payment solution on Apple devices.


    As I wrote above, there were so many false rumors about NFC in Apple devices that I first need to see it to believe it.


    One important stock to watch in NFC is NXPI (I once held a long position since around $20, but I sold it last year after it appreciated quite a lot)
    7 Jun 2014, 05:30 AM Reply Like
  • Tales From The Future
    , contributor
    Comments (7743) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Once more NFC rumors in the iPhone6:




    We will know for sure upon launch. There have been NFC rumors in new iPhone revisions for years...
    26 Jul 2014, 08:12 PM Reply Like
  • Tales From The Future
    , contributor
    Comments (7743) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » More about iBeacon at the WSJ:




    Also watch out for WWDC 2014 news. An important question is privacy, from the article:


    "Privacy remains a concern. Apple says tracking fears aren't well-grounded because the signals are one-way and the beacons don't know anything about the user. But apps that use iBeacon might have personal data, to which they can add location details. "There are some privacy holes in there—people might not notice that they are giving up some information if it's not handled correctly," said Michael Healander, general manager for GISi Indoors, a company that specializes in geolocation technologies.


    Apple requires app developers to have users opt in before receiving pings, and allow them to opt out later. Apple said it monitors apps' adherence to its privacy standards.


    Currently, iBeacon is limited in part because the technology only works when users download an app or pass that works in conjunction with the signal. This adds an extra step, compared with the more privacy-invasive alternative of tracking users anonymously. That alternative provides businesses more latitude with the data they gather."
    1 Jun 2014, 07:45 PM Reply Like
  • Tales From The Future
    , contributor
    Comments (7743) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » An update on iBeacon in iOS8:


    "OS 8 makes it possible for an iOS app to determine its precise indoor position in supported venues."


    "Indoor-Positioning-in iOS 8, Apple will still be using Cellular, GPS, and WiFi to get you to the venue, but once you’re approaching a location that is enabled for indoor positioning, it will scan over wifi, tap into the device’s sensors like the M7 chip and provide accurate data of exactly where you are and how fast you’re moving through the floor plan. Once indoor positioning kicks in, Apple turns down the GPS chip in the device in order to conserve power. The feature requires WiFi, an unlocked device, and will rely on RF parametric data from the venues in addition to the device’s sensors."


    5 Jun 2014, 12:37 PM Reply Like
  • Tales From The Future
    , contributor
    Comments (7743) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » 2014, Update on iBeacon hardware:


    FCC Filings Reveal Apple's First-Party iBeacon Hardware


    "FCC filings discovered by electronics company Securifi have revealed Apple's plans for first-party iBeacon hardware to go along with the microlocation technology found in iOS. The transmitter is registered as the "Apple iBeacon" and carries a model number of A1573, which is in line with the company's other products"


    13 Jul 2014, 07:10 AM Reply Like
  • Tales From The Future
    , contributor
    Comments (7743) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » It looks like the (nex) iPhone6 might include NFC chips...




    It will be interesting to see the combination of NFC, iBeacon and TouchID going forward in relation to payments, authentification and indoor mapping.
    27 Aug 2014, 11:25 AM Reply Like
  • Tales From The Future
    , contributor
    Comments (7743) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » More news / rumors on NFC in the iPhone6:


    "Apple's next iPhone may indeed include a mobile payment platform, claims WIRED in a report released Thursday. Wired's sources didn't not reveal how the system would work, but the publication was told that near field communications NFC technology will be part of the system. "


    "A growing body of evidence suggests Apple is working on a mobile payments solution with NFC as an important component. NFC has been mentioned along with Bluetooth LE in patent applications that describe possible mobile payment solutions. Analysts from Morgan Stanley and Brightwire, as well as high-profile KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo all believe Apple will be adopting NFC as a core technology for the iPhone 6.


    Apple is rumored to be working on an upcoming mobile payment solution that leverages the credit card data stored in millions of iTunes accounts. Apple is said to be working with credit card companies such as Visa about a possible partnership that would allow it to bypass third-party payment processors. Apple CEO Tim Cook also alluded to mobile payments earlier this year, noting that mobile payments were "one of the thoughts" behind Touch ID."


    28 Aug 2014, 12:22 PM Reply Like
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