Forget NFC: This Technology Will Change the Future

Apple's iBeacon, based on Bluetooth technology, could be the biggest trend of the next decade.

Jan 23, 2014 at 1:00PM

One of the biggest potential technological trends of the next decade was hardly noticed at this year's International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, though it was used in the official CES scavenger hunt.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) announced the iBeacon late last year, and while it hasn't gotten much attention yet, you'll want to keep an eye on this Bluetooth-based technology as the market discovers its potential. In this video from the floor of CES, Motley Fool analysts Eric Bleeker and Rex Moore discuss iBeacon, and how it could kill near-field-communication (NFC) technology.

A full transcript follows the video.

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Rex Moore: OK, what about trends? That's what we like to look for as investors. What's the biggest trend you saw out here?

Eric Bleeker: The biggest trend? Remember when everyone was talking about NFC or QR codes?

Moore: Near Field Communication ...

Bleeker: Yeah, we go through all these things. NXP Semiconductor (NASDAQ:NXPI) was a big company, people were based on this. NFC is so dead. It's just not going to happen; Apple never embraced it.

But the problem is, there's too much action taken from the user. If you have to bump phones for things ...

Moore: They actually used NFC in our badges this year, and it took a while -- like 5-10 seconds -- before you could get through the line.

Bleeker: Yeah. What I'm looking at now, I think Bluetooth is the real deal; a fundamental technology which will drive the entire technology sphere across the next 10 years. I talked with Steven Cheney, who is the biz dev head of a company named Estimote, and the kinds of things that he was talking about, that Bluetooth is enabling, is really wild.

I have some examples.

Beacons -- one of the newest products that Apple has is iBeacon. It's a Bluetooth-based technology, and it hasn't gotten a lot of press. They announced it, I believe, back in October, and some of the use cases for this were wild. You can set up a beacon -- it doesn't even need to be plugged into power, so it can be sitting on a wall for years.

Just as one example, they're extremely location-aware and talk to devices easily. A school district -- LA -- just gave away iPads to every student. A beacon could actually be used, that's location-aware. When students walk into the classroom it disables SnapChat so they can't use SnapChat in the classroom.

It is so passive, to be able to do these things, and the commercial cases ... we're just scratching the surface. I think the Internet of Things is real. I think Bluetooth is the key enabler, and of course I think a company like Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) will do very well in this while other large companies such as Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) claim to be at the forefront, but I believe are pretenders to the throne.

Moore: Why is Cisco a pretender?

Bleeker: Because they talk about being at the center of networking, but they just haven't been able to get in front of revenue opportunities. With a lot of more innovative uses of the technology, they actually endanger their own revenue, being a traditionally hardware-based vendor.

They just haven't been able to harness the trend as well as someone like Qualcomm, who is cellular in nature and owns the wireless standards instead of the equipment, being able to take care of your long-haul data in other areas.

Eric Bleeker, CFA owns shares of Cisco Systems. Rex Moore has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Cisco Systems, and NXP Semiconductors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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