With the advent of iOS 7 came a new technology from Apple called iBeacons. iBeacons provide a significant step forward in the “internet of things.” As technology becomes a more central part of our lives, our devices start to talk to each other more and iBeacons help a device figure out what's nearby and what it can talk to. The context of a device’s location helps make decisions for how devices interact with each other. iBeacons provide a solution to make those decisions, replacing what traditional GPS services have done in the past.
With traditional GPS services, the data is often inaccurate and the service can make inappropriate decisions. School buildings are notorious for interfering with location services, providing location data that is seldom accurate. GPS services do not include things like altitude, so even when the coordinates are correct, it doesn't understand if you are on the 2nd floor or 3rd floor of the high school. Traditional GPS services also carry a liability in student privacy. The service has the potential to save data long term, creating a historical tracking of that device and the student using it, which has been a roadblock for many.
ABCs of iBeacons
iBeacons offer great advantages over traditional location services. Instead of using the device’s specific geographic location (GPS coordinates), iBeacons use a device’s proximity to an iBeacon region. Similar to how Grover taught on Sesame Street, an iBeacon knows what devices are “near” and what's “far.”
This is a major shift in the approach to the accuracy problem. Instead of constantly sending location data to a service, a device only communicates when it is in one of these regions. This removes liability, as the service no longer knows where devices are, only that the device is in a region it cares about.
As accurate as it gets
iBeacons are also far more accurate, even in buildings with many walls that block communications to a GPS satellite. Because they're merely finding when a device is near, iBeacons provide accuracy to about one centimeter — even between floors in a building.
This accuracy has been a draw for the retail environment, and is one of the primary applications of iBeacons. Retails are using iBeacons to serve content to shoppers based on what items they’re viewing at the time. Maybe a description of that product will appear on their phones or some complementing products will be shown.
Simplifying device management
With the Casper Suite, organizations can apply that same technology and accurate context to their device management needs. As an IT administrator, our primary task is to ensure that the end user has access to the content and tools needed to be successful with their immediate tasks.
In an education setting, we make these decisions based on criteria like grade level, primary focus area, or even the class a student is in at the time. For example, when preparing devices for a math student, we’d consider deploying graphing calculators, the course syllabus, and Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land. This process is part of device management and iBeacons can simplify this process for the entire IT administration team and students alike.
Students get the materials they need
iBeacons allow us to create policies and guidelines for how a device should behave based on the context of which region it is in. So when a student takes their device to math class, they automatically see the syllabus, the Volume Purchase Program (VPP) distributed graphing calculator, and Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land right in Self Service.
They can access it when they need it, or download it for constant access to that content. Teachers can take their class to the library and each student can automatically see the content they need right on their devices without having to sort through eBooks that aren’t applicable to the class they’re in at the time.
In the classroom, students can automatically gain access to the Apple TV without knowing the passwords, in order to collaborate with each other and the entire class without losing instructional time.
Tremendous upside for education
The applications of iBeacons to the classroom are endless. Paired with the integration in the Casper Suite, your district will save device configuration time and be afforded the time to investigate modification and redefinition technology.
As your school is preparing for the 2015-2016 school year, empower your IT staff by leveraging iBeacons. Allow your students to feel more ownership of their devices by providing the content when they need it and in a way they prefer to consume it. The Apple platforms provide such a rich learning environment and the Casper Suite with iBeacons pave the way to a more simple, successful rollout.