Mobile development continues to advance with Apple’s new iOS 7 APIs. While most people have been chattering about the new, flatter interface, I have grown more and more excited about the new changes and capabilities of the underlying OS. The changes are extensive, ranging from new design requirements (such as a new set of icons sizes) to entirely new programming models, such as that of Sprite Kit.

Some changes are fussy, such as views having their origins behind the top status bar as opposed to vertically beneath it. This affects many applications, especially those control-heavy line-of-business applications most commonly written by SD Times readers. Other changes are elegant, such as the addition of perspective and 3D buildings in map views simply by setting an “MKCamera” at the desired viewpoint and setting “ShowsBuilding” to true.

My favorite new APIs, though, are the ones that suggest entirely new applications. The aforementioned Sprite Kit is one, which makes 2D physics-based games distractingly easy, but I think the most significant for SD Times readers are the APIs relating to iBeacons and Multipeer Connectivity.

iBeacons are a new capability that combine large-scale geofencing with fine-grained radio-based ranging. iBeacons are associated with a GUID rather than a list of hardcoded locations, so as soon as a new storefront or location is added, a company’s iBeacon-based app works with the new facility, notifying the app every time a user comes within range. Once the user is within Bluetooth range of the iBeacon, the app can start finer-grained ranging, offering department-specific specials, creating a receipt when the user walks up to the register, etc.

Today, only iOS devices can serve as iBeacons, but there is already one company (www.estimote.com) that intends to create low-cost hardware, and Apple says that they will release a Bluetooth profile, opening the possibility of broad support.

Multipeer Connectivity is another radio-range capability that allows devices that are either in Bluetooth range or on the same network loop to advertise, discover, and communicate easily. While this capability has always been there with Bonjour/zeroconf networking, MPC is vastly easier to program.

I see iBeacons and MPC as having a powerful synergy. Perhaps I have a dirty mind, but I feel certain that we’re about to see a bunch of businesses competing to be The Great Hook-Up App. (On the other hand, there are only 2122 GUIDs, so not every kink will be available.)

On the more mundane level, the combination of ad hoc location and ranging plus ad hoc communication and data transfer suggests any number of major opportunities for restaurants, conferences and convention centers, or any other business where short-range communication among strangers may be valuable. Although iBeacons are non-directional, overlapping iBeacons can be used to divvy up an area with arbitrary precision.