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What’s The Deal with iBeacon Technology?


You also may have heard of innovative uses of iBeacon technology in the news lately, so what exactly is this technology and how is it being used?

Apple first introduced the iBeacon application programming interface (API) in 2013. With this API, hardware devices (aka “beacons”) emit a unique signal that can be picked up by a smartphone when close by, which then triggers apps to perform certain actions. iBeacon uses a low-energy Bluetooth signal, but it is different than traditional Bluetooth technology where a device and phone sync with each other. The beacon continually sends pings, apps on your phone listen for these signals, and when your phone comes into range the apps will respond to the pings. It’s similar to GPS-based “geo push” technology, but with more precision and less battery usage. Most beacon devices are typically small, low-energy, and powered by coin-cell batteries, making them long-lasting and easy to place anywhere.


As Apple explains, “iBeacon opens a new world of possibilities for location awareness, and countless opportunities for interactivity between iOS devices and iBeacon hardware.” Marketing lingo aside, iBeacon technology is a simple and effective way of triggering location-based actions. A popular use is for retailers wanting to send location-specific messaging. Assuming you have the retailer’s app installed, if you pass a beacon in the shop, a special offer could pop up on your phone (if you’ve opted for notifications). Virgin Atlantic used iBeacon location-aware technology to send messages to customers with electronic boarding passes in London’s Heathrow airport. Target uses beacon technology in their Cartwheel app to offer mobile-only deals to customers shopping in the store. Even McDonald’s has been testing iBeacon functionality in their restaurants. In all these scenarios, the beacon remains at a fixed location, and an action happens when an app user happens to pass by.

Introducing the Metromile Tag

Editor’s note: The Tag is no longer available, and the Metromile smart driving app is now only available for pay-per-mile insurance customers. 

In our efforts to make car ownership as easy and affordable as possible, we are excited to introduce the Metromile Tag! While the beta is currently available in eligible states and vehicles*, it will soon become available for all cars. The Tag wirelessly connects to smartphones via iBeacon technology and can be stored conveniently in the glove box, cup holder, or center console of the car.

*Tag is currently available in CA, OR, WA, IL and in cars built in 1996 and later

Metromile Tag

When the Tag detects the user’s phone it will start delivering useful driving information using the exact same app as our per-mile insurance customers. Features include our street sweeping alerts (currently in San Francisco, San Diego, and Chicago), a car locator, driving stats, and more.* For those not ready for per-mile insurance, the Tag is the perfect way to take a free test drive to see how much they could save. Now everyone can have an easier time managing the daily hassles of owning a car.
*Note that our car health feature will not be available for Tag users since it requires the OBD-II port.

Our per-mile insurance customers will still receive the device that plugs into the OBD-II port, which we are now calling the Metromile Pulse (formerly the Metronome). Per-mile insurance customers have additional features such as the status of their car’s health, the ability to contact one of our on-staff mechanics, and even finding a stolen car. For current customers, there is no need to request a new device, but those interested in using a Tag in an another car will need to set up an additional account.

To make this new launch as seamless as possible, our current app users that are not per-mile insurance customers will be grandfathered into our program and can keep their Pulse (OBD-II device formerly known as the Metronome). If anything should happen, we’ll replace it with a new Metromile Pulse if needed. We still encourage everyone to share our app with their friends, just note that moving forward they will receive the Tag instead of the Pulse.

If you have additional questions about the Tag or the Pulse you can check out our FAQs. This is only the beginning – we have so many great new app features that we can’t wait to share in the coming months. Have suggestions for something that could make the app experience even more helpful? Send us a tweet @Metromile or email us at [email protected].