Ok, but what is a beacon then?
Non-technical people will imagine beacons as a small battery-powered device sticked onto a wall or place. Technical people will say it’s a small Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) device that broadcasts a small amount of data every second or so. At a hardware level, beacons are BLE devices broadcasting data using Apple’s “iBeacon” protocol. At software level, beacons are messages sent by broadcasting devices that are detected and processed by receiver devices like a mobile app running on iOS. These data are considered beacons as well, depending on how you name things.
Did Apple invent beacons?
Apple’s iOS was the first platform to bring the technology to the masses. Technically speaking, Apple extended its iOS CLLocation class, which previously supported only GPS/Geolocation, to support beacons as well. The underlying technology (BLE) was created by Nokia and the concept of “beacons” is universal to all hardware compatible with Bluetooth Smart/BLE that is available under the Bluetooth 4.0 specification. The iBeacon name and protocol are trademarked by Apple.
Even though Apple developers now have beacons and geo location under the same “umbrella”, there is a very essential difference between them: A beacon is not a physical location; it is something that can be placed anywhere and have its location changed at anytime, while GPS locations are always there and forever fixed. GPS locations also do not have major and minor values, and they are public to anyone. On the other hand, iBeacons carry an unique identifier. If the listener does not know this identification, it will never know it is there.