Major League Baseball gets ready for iWatch

Tim Cook's Apple plans its next moves. The latest evidence for this comes from Major League Baseball (MLB), which plans to deploy what will turn out to be iWatch-friendly iBeacon systems across new interactive baseball attractions.


[ABOVE: MLB 2012 image c/o Scott Ableman, Flickr.]

Get your game on

MLB originally installed iBeacon systems in 28 MLB ballparks across the U.S. to help iPhone owners check games and collect special offers using the At the Ballpark app.

This went well. MLB has now announced this year's All-Star Game at Target Field will use iBeacon with park attractions, delivering extra content and interactive features to iOS users.

Now, you could see this as an interesting example of the ways in which public events can deploy Apple's iBeacon tech to provide special offers, directions and useful information to people using iOS.

But this could go much further.


Claims Apple plans its own mobile payments solution have been in circulation for years. There are lots of challenges and lots of opportunities, but given that banks are unable to change quickly enough to meet the incoming tech disruption, the time may be ripe for Apple to play its card.

Mobile payments haven't hit prime time. Where they are used, they usually depend on the powers that be forcing consumers to use them. (In the UK, for example, London's buses no longer take cash, forcing passengers to use contactless payment cards or pre-purchased tickets). This is effective in patterning consumer behavior, but it creates resentment.

Apple's approach is sweeter. Rather than force a problem on consumers, the iBeacon payment plan depends on offering them an opportunity.

Combine context-aware iBeacon technologies with a mobile payments solution and consumers can be made aware of something they may want and then pay for that thing using their fingerprint, password-protected iOS device and iTunes account. They are not forced to pay this way, but they can if they like. There's no force and no resentment.


Now imagine iBeacon at sports events and the iWatch. Not only will you be able to choose to receive situation context information on the device, but you will be able to act upon that information.

This isn't confined to payments -- imagine a sports field in which all competitors were wearing these Bluetooth-capable devices while their activity was monitored by a low cost iBeacon device.

This solution would enable the team's trainers, or the crowd watching, to monitor and receive information in real time about an athlete they happen to be watching on the field -- pulse rate, breathing, and other fitness information continuously updated during a game. This would be incredibly useful to team managers and incredibly interesting to audience members.

It's possible that Apple has no plans for wearables or payments systems. I don't believe that's true, but it is possible.

What's critical is that when these plans are realized, they illustrate that as Apple moves into new markets, it is prepared to invest lots of time and energy to ensure it has the fundamental foundations laid that will be required to support its products.

This company doesn't throw ideas at the wall to see which ones stick. It operates incrementally in full awareness of the importance of creating strong foundations.

This has the hallmark of a complex operational mind at work. And that’s Tim Cook's Apple -- laying the foundations for future growth.

Read more about Apple's plans for iWatch

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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