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New Apple TV 'tap-to-setup' may be first public deployment of iBeacons

Apple on Tuesday detailed a new process for configuring a third generation Apple TV by tapping it with an iOS 7 device, a procedure that may be the first public deployment of the company's new iBeacons communications standard.

The new procedure, revealed in an Apple support document, describes a process by which a user can transfer their Wi-Fi network information, iTunes Store credentials, and language and region preferences from an iOS 7 device to a third generation Apple TV during setup simply by enabling Bluetooth and touching the devices together. The unique "tap-to-setup" action bears the hallmarks of Apple's iBeacons technology, which was introduced in iOS 7.

As previously noted by AppleInsider, the process only works with iOS devices that support Bluetooth Low Energy, the power-sipping wireless technology behind iBeacons. Additionally, sensing that the devices have touched indicates that the setup uses BLE to determine the proximity of the iOS device and the Apple TV, a system known as "ranging," or measuring the distance between two devices. This, too, is a pillar feature for the new iBeacons standard.

Other methods of detecting whether the devices touched, such as using the iOS device's accelerometer, would be problematic and unlikely to work reliably, especially in households with more than one Apple TV. The third generation Apple TV was the first revision of the hockey puck-sized set top box to contain a Bluetooth chip, which Apple initially took advantage of by allowing users to connect Bluetooth keyboards to the device.

The new setup procedure may be a bellwether for Apple's future plans around Bluetooth Low Energy technology and iBeacons, with some speculating that the company will take advantage of the combination to create a new contactless mobile payment system.