How Apple, Broadcom, and Y Combinator will put a bullet in NFC's head on September 10th

It won't be Apple alone this time (remember how Steve Jobs killed floppy drives when he brought the NeXT to the world, or killed Flash when iPhones came to the world?). This time Scott McGregor, CEO of +Broadcom and Y Combinator's new +Estimote, are helping Apple put a bullet in NFC's head. 

How? It's called Low-Energy Bluetooth. AKA Bluetooth 4.0. More details on that here: http://www.bluetooth.com/Pages/Low-Energy.aspx

The players? 

Broadcom builds a good percentage of the radios inside our smartphones.
Estimote, last week, showed off a new contextual set of sensors and low-power Bluetooth radios. I got a good demo that you'll see soon and their system is the best thought out I've seen: http://estimote.com/
Apple is, well, Apple and has the best distribution network known to the tech industry (I was reminded of this yesterday as signs above the Genius Bar in its San Francisco store taught me about what geo fences are).

So, what did Scott and Broadcom show me today? Low-cost device that has a Bluetooth radio, a small processor. You can see a video I shot of Scott on my Google Glass below.

Why is it important? Well, this whole package runs on a small battery for about two years! It also costs only a few dollars (in large quantities). 

What does this let developers do? Well, let's say we put 100 of these things around the Ritz by my house. We could stick them under every chair. The bar has one. The entry way has one. The pool has a few. The spa has a few. The front desk has one. Each of the Segways has one. Each golf cart has one.

What would this let you do? Well, you could order things and have them come to you. Why? Each of these devices continually spits a number, er, identifier, into the air. Your iPhone (which will get a new thing called iBeacon when iOS 7 comes along that enables this) will see these "beacons" in real time. If you come within 100 feet of one of these devices your phone can start doing stuff. Then the stuff it can do will change when you are 20 feet away. Get 10 feet away and it will do yet more. Finally when you get within inches it knows that too.

On your screen things will contextually change as you walk toward or away from one of these beacons. Come closer to the bar at the Ritz, for instance, and your iPhone screen could show the drink specials today. It could even know what kinds of wine you like and contextually suggest another one you might like.

Oh, and each of these could have other sensors. For instance, a temperature sensor, so staff could get warned when it's cold outside and bring guests hot chocolate and blankets, not to mention turn on heat lamps (the lamps themselves could be controlled by these, so they would only turn on if someone was within a few feet).

The use cases go on and on. These could be used for payments. Ask for another glass of wine at the bar? Your phone is your identity and the Ritz could charge you automatically for it without asking for any cash or credit card.

What I realize now is that Apple is ahead of Google on its support of these new low-power Bluetooth devices. Yeah, Android supports it, but that ecosystem is so fragmented that it can't deliver a common experience to everyone the way Apple can. So, Apple will get the credit here.

I expect Apple will lay out a new contextual world strategy built on top of these low energy Bluetooth devices on September 10th.

If it does, Tim Cook could justifiably shut up naysayers like me who have been giving him heck lately. He also would shoot NFC in the head, since it wouldn't have a reason to exist anymore. 

Damn it, Cook might get a two-for-one with what Broadcom announced today. Somehow I think Scott might be getting a holiday card from Cook. Drat, I should have bought some Apple stock back when it was under $400. 

Boom.

Oh, and I interviewed Scott in the new +Geekdom San Francisco space where we're looking for contextual startups (wearables, Google Glass, big data/cloud, social, location-tech focused startups) to share this space with us. Is your startup looking for a great San Francisco address? Drop me a line! scobleizer@gmail.com
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2013-08-27
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