iBeacons are Apple’s implementation of small, often inexpensive beacon devices that utilize Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) wireless signals to deliver location-based product information and offers or specials to iOS-powered mobile devices like iPhones and iPads.
Apple added iBeacon functionality in the iOS 7 update, and the company also released a software development kit (SDK) at that time to enable enterprises and developers to utilize the functionality in their own apps.
Because iBeacons rely on iOS 7 and later updates, iBeacon technology will only work with the iPhone 4S and later versions, third-generation or later iPads, iPad Minis, and fifth-generation or later iPod Touch devices.
iBeacons in Apple Stores and Privacy Concerns
Apple began using iBeacons in 254 of its retails stores in the United States on December 6th, 2013, enabling customers with the Apple Store app to receive location-specific offers in Apple stores.
In terms of privacy concerns, iBeacons do track a user’s exact location when they install the Apple Store app, as do other beacons when the apps of retail stores have been installed. iBeacons aren’t however able to obtain specific information about the user beyond location.
Users can also discontinue iBeacon tracking by uninstalling apps like the Apple Store app that connect with iBeacons, by revoking Location Services permissions for the relevant apps or by turning off Bluetooth.