Earlier this week, The Associated Press got a demonstration of how Apple is going to use its iBeacon technology inside its retail stores. Those iBeacons are reportedly being activated today.

The closest parallel to the iBeacon functionality is likely the Shopkick app, which monitors where a smartphone is physically and sends messages based on proximity to pre-designed locations. What's different with the iBeacon is that the functionality is already built into the Apple Store app — users just need to have Bluetooth enabled in order for it to work.

iBeacons can be configured in a variety of ways. One might be set up to send a message that a device is ready for pickup no matter where the shopper is within the store, while another might send a very specific message but only when the user is physically standing in a particular aisle.

Thinking beyond the Apple Stores themselves, the company told the AP that the iBeacon gives "a whole new level of micro-location awareness, such as trail markers in a park, exhibits in a museum or product displays in stores."

Looking forward:

Major League Baseball already plans to use the technology next year to customize fans' experiences at its ballparks, provided they download the At The Ballpark app to their iPhones or iPads and have iOS 7 installed. In a demo earlier this year, MLB officials showed how the app can offer special features based on users' location in a stadium, such as coupons in the souvenir shop or a video that plays near landmarks.

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