With Christmas now less than two weeks away, many of you reading this blog are still looking for great gift ideas for family and friends.
Perhaps you’ll want to treat them to an exciting, innovative new Xbox ONE.
Maybe you’ll opt to give them the gift of wearable tech, such as Samsung’s Galaxy Gear or Google Glass.
Or you may decide to head to the nearest Apple Store, and pick up a new iPad Air, an iPhone 5, or something else from those crazy-cool, cutting-edge-creative, Cupertino, California-based elves over at Apple.
If you don’t know how to get to your local Apple Store, chances are you’ll use some sort of GPS device to guide you there.
And once you ARE there, you’ll now have a new sort of in-store GPS to guide you around, thanks to the ever-innovative folks at Apple.
Apple is calling it iBeacon, and many observers are calling it various shades of brilliant.
On Dec. 6, Apple began using iBeacon at its 254 stores across America to send customers messages about products, events and other information – all tailored to where the customer is situated within the store. To take advantage of this cool new in-store, location-based technology, all customers need to do is download an Apple Store app – and have operational Bluetooth and the latest operating system, iOS 7. You also, of course, must provide permission to “be tracked” by iBeacon.
If you’re set up and in store, then, you may walk by an iPhone table, and receive a message asking you if you want to upgrade to a newer iPhone model. Or you might receive a message letting you know that your iPad Air is ready for pickup, then be able to retrieve it simply by showing a clerk the message on your smartphone screen.
According to a recent Associated Press story about iBeacon, Apple has installed around 20 iBeacon transmitters, some of which are actually iPhones and iPads (each of those devices, from iPhone 4S and third-generation iPad and on, comes with iBeacon capability, as part of iOS 7), in its bustling, world-famous, 24-hour Apple Store on Fifth Avenue. The transmitters use Bluetooth wireless technology to provide your phone more precise information about your location – information that isn’t possible with GPS, which is not good at distinguishing between locations that are just a few feet apart, or any indoor applications, for that matter.
No word yet, however, if iBeacon will employ commanding celebrity voices such as Mr. T.
But what if you didn’t even have to find your way to the Apple Store (with the help of your GPS, with or without Mr. T), or bother to be guided around (by iBeacon) once you were there, in order to receive a great new Apple product, delivered right to your door?
Of course, you can already do this. And few companies have mastered the art of the delivery better than Seattle-area innovator Amazon. And if you’re Amazon Prime customers/members like we are, you love the perks like free shipping.
But if Amazon’s own innovators are to be believed, before too long, you won’t even have to deal with a human driver in order to receive your order. Instead, an Amazon Prime Air unmanned aircraft (also known as a “drone”) will do all the dirty delivery work.
Unlike iBeacon, Amazon Prime Air drones aren’t operating to make consumers’ lives easier as we type. And more than one observer believes that the Cyber Monday announcement of plans to launch Prime Air – via CBS’ iconic news program “60 Minutes,” nonetheless – was either a brilliant publicity stunt on the part of CEO Jeff Bezos, or simply too fraught with complications and hurdles to ever really get off the ground.
According to Bezos in the “60 Minutes” interview, Amazon’s Prime Air unmanned vehicles are capable of carrying and delivering packages that weigh up to five pounds – which covers around 86% of the packages and items Amazon currently delivers. Bezos said the drones Amazon is currently testing have a limited range, around 10 miles, but have no need at all for humans to control them – thanks to sophisticated GPS technology. No word yet whether Mr. T would bark out directional orders to the drone, either pre-flight or mid-air.
The most obvious benefit of Prime Air delivery would be the immediacy and speed, of course. According to Bezos, the locally-based and -routed Prime Air vehicles would deliver orders to customers in a mere 30 minutes or less after they place their order online. Of course, for Amazon, the cost-saving benefits could be equally great. The company spent nearly $2.9 billion last year on shipping costs – or some 4.7% of its net sales.
Whether or not Prime Air ever takes flight, the announcement and subsequent massive media coverage alone should be a boost and boon to Amazon, which is already expected to rack up huge holiday revenues. And even the mere possibility of something happening sometime soon seems to further blur the lines between classic science-fiction and modern-day reality.
These are just some of the many amazing innovations we should expect to become standard sometime sooner rather than later, in addition to things like mobile voice commerce. We are indeed living in amazing, interesting and fascinating times, after all.
What are YOUR thoughts on new developments like iBeacon and Prime Air? And what creative, cool, smart, savvy, tech-type Holiday gifts will you be buying here in the last month of 2013?
Let us know in the comments section below this blog. We welcome any and all gift-giving tips, too. There’s still time.