An FCC filing was recently discovered, and it’s got Apple written all over it — literally. Their application for iBeacon hardware has many scratching their head, wondering why Apple would jump into a hardware sector meant for more back-end utility. The device being powered by a USB connection is even more confusing.
When compared to the class-leading Gimbal hardware, Apple’s patent drawings are just — well, they’re unnecessary. Bigger, a touch clumsy, and relying on a USB connection for power, the application falls short of what we know as iBeacon hardware technology. The Gimbal is battery powered; fine due to iBeacon’s reliance on Bluetooth Low Energy. The batteries in a Gimbal needn’t be replaced more than once every few months.
There is also an on/off toggle switch — again curious in a world where your location is what makes the device work. Though the drawings display something about the size of your palm, they’re at 250% scale. The USB port, like the on/off switch, is on the rear of the device, so lying it flat on a surface won’t work. If it were rechargeable, that’s also strange. The point of iBeacon hardware is to not have to find and charge it every so often.
This could be reference hardware of some sort, but it’s a bit elegant for that. Apple likely wouldn’t make a device we could crack open and replace batteries on, but using USB rather than their proprietary Lightning charging technology is a strange choice.
Apple is pushing their way into our home, and iBeacon can help with that quite a bit. Geofencing your house is a great way to automate it, and hardware like this can do as much. Some speculate that Apple could build iBeacon technology into existing hardware like the AirPort, and that’s a salient solution — but not reaching. The AirPort lineup might be great, but they’re expensive, and not widely used.
A small tag could end up fencing an entire home, and recharging it via USB could be a nice option, but still a head-scratcher. Apple would also need software to back up their hardware play, and that’s something we’ve not seen here.
Unless, of course, Apple is making a play for Launch Here.