A Beacon To Guide You!

Nov 17, 2016

Bluetooth beacons

So what is a Bluetooth beacon?

Beacons are hardware transmitters that that broadcast their unique identifier to nearby portable electronic devices such as smart phones. They do this via radio using the Bluetooth 4.0 low energy standard. These portable electronics can perform actions when in close proximity to a beacon. Bluetooth is a “short-link” radio which was created in 1989 and refined over the years. Beacons however, do not require a paired connection like previous Bluetooth devices. Beacons are typically battery powered or USB powered.

Many beacon manufacturers also add sensors to their beacons (such as temperature or motion sensors). This sensor data is available to beacon clients.
Beacons can communicate with portable devices with one or more of the following protocols:

 

Who makes them?

Some of the top manufacturers are:

Many more manufacturers are starting to produce beacons which is reducing the price and providing more options.beacon mfgbeacons-the-retail-revolution-4-638

What are they used for?

Some of the uses for Bluetooth beacons are:

  • Advertising
  • Indoor Navigation
    • Many beacons per room
    • One beacon per room
    • Few beacons per building
  • Health care (Using the device tracking capabilities of Bluetooth beacons, in-home patient monitoring is possible. Using Bluetooth beacons a person’s movements and activities can be tracked in their home.[21] Bluetooth beacons are a good alternative to in house cameras due to their increased level of privacy. Additionally bluetooth beacons can be used in hospitals or other workplaces to ensure workers meet certain standards. For example, a beacon may be placed at a hand sanitizer dispenser in a hospital, the beacons can help ensure employees are using the station regularly.)

There are many other uses for beacons — just use your phone, a location and your imagination!

What similar technologies are there?

Near Field Communication (NFC) is another technology that is finding it’s way to smart phones and other portable devices. NFC involves getting the device much closer (approximately 2 inches) to the transmitter.

Global Positioning Systems (GPS) receivers are standard in most smart phones. The GPS can provide the phones location as latitude/longitude coordinates.

You might be asking: why not just use GPS for locating things and display contents based on GPS coordinates? This is not a good idea for two reasons:

  1. GPS is accurate only to 5 meters (or 15 feet).
  2. GPS drains a phone battery quicker than Bluetooth low energy.
    • GPS consumes more: 20mA (milliamps) when tracking
    • BLE peaks at 12.5mA and averages 9pA (picoamps)

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What can I do to try them?

The best way to try this technology is to buy a beacon and work with it! You can buy an Estimote proximity development kit for $59: http://estimote.com/#get-beacons-section.

If you are not sure how to make your awesome new beacon app, come see us at TechArk (www.gotechark.com) — we would be glad help![/fusion_text][/one_half][/fullwidth]

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