iBeacons is a Bluetooth-based micro-locations system. But instead of being used by people to determine their own locations, it's used by retailers, museums and businesses of all kinds to find out exactly where people are, so they can automatically serve up highly relevant interactions to customers' phones.
How does it work? The closes analogue is, probably, an automatic check-in. As per Apple, if you walked into, say, Jay's Donut Shop, iBeacons would know for certain that you had walked into Jay's Donut shop, whereas other location apps might use GPS, Wi-Fi and cellular triangulation to produce a list of guesses about where you were. A check-in wouldn't even be required.
But of course, it depends on pre-installed BLE devices (iBeacons). They have to have some global addresses (unique IDs) in order to distinguish Jay's Donut Shop from Ann's Donut Shop.
And here I would like to highlight again our old idea about triggering data access depends on the network environment. It is SpotEx. See our papers, for example. In this concept, any existing or even specially created wireless network node could be used as a presence sensor that can open (discover) access to some dynamic or user-generated content. The content itself could also be linked to social media. An appropriate mobile service (context-aware browser) can present that information to mobile subscribers. Potential use-cases for the proposed approach include any project associated with hyper-local news data. For example, projects providing Smart City data, delivering indoor retail information, etc. In other words, we can replace iBeacons right now (more precisely - simulate the same behavior) with Wi-Fi nodes. And because Wi-Fi access point could be opened right on the mobile phone, any smartphone can play a role of iBeacon.
Actually, we wrote about this in discussion about Estimote. Once again - any wireless node (e.g. Wi-Fi access point or even the smartphone itself) is a beacon. The location is completely insignificant here. It is about the visibility only. As soon as some access point is visible (and this access point could be opened right on the phone, of course), we can deliver some data to the mobile user (to the subscriber).
Of course, the metric could be more complex (e.g., we can use The Spearman rank-order, etc.), but the whole idea is transparent. The presence statement for some network node (nodes) triggers data access.