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Beacon Technology

Beacons are an enabler, an assistive technology that help to connect physical objects or spaces with mobile devices to provide users with what they need, when they need it. Mubaloo Innovation Lab is a beacon technology specialist, working on deployments across industries.

Beacon Technology

Location-based technologies deliver location awareness, immediacy and provide users with contextual, relevant information. This can help businesses transform processes and improve productivity and efficiencies in the work place, as well as enhance customer engagement to improve customer experience and drive brand loyalty.

Location-based technologies, like beacon technology, have advanced the value that mobile can deliver. Beacons are an enabler, an assistive technology that helps to connect physical objects or spaces with mobile devices. Beacon technology can help provide better business intelligence, end user engagement and deliver proximity based targeting and content delivery.

Beacons are small Bluetooth Low Energy transmitters that continuously broadcast an ID that mobile apps can use to understand a given proximity. Beacons enable apps to be contextually aware, without any user interaction. Beacons act as triggers for actions within apps, such as an alert when a user enters or leaves a beacon zone, or to trigger the right content within an app when it gets opened.

Working on three zones, beacons can be used to trigger different content, based on the user proximity when inside an app.

BLE Basics

Low Energy Bluetooth (BLE) is the underlying technology for beacons, making the technology very power efficient and only require minimal device services. Beacons send small bursts of data periodically that mobile apps can listen to and do something with.

The BLE protocol allows for sensors to be added to it, which can be used to send data such as temperature, electricity usage, liquid level or other information to a mobile device. This helps to provide companies with additional information to help them with their operations, by providing granular insight into the status of equipment or help identify potential issues.

Simple Beacons

Beacons constantly advertise a predefined ID structure in order to be uniquely identified with groups of beacons. The objective of beacons is to give a presence to spaces and objects that otherwise would not have means to connect to each other or a system. Beacons use BLE signals to present mobile devices with micro location information and a means of triggering an application to do something. Mobile apps can listen for beacons with BLE turned on, on the mobile device.

Apps provide two key functions when listening for beacons

  • Monitoring

    Monitoring can wake up a device when it first sees a beacon, or when it leaves the region of a beacon, commonly referred to as entry and exit.

  • Ranging

    Ranging allows the app to determine proximity or a rough distance from a beacon or group of beacons.

This can be used to determine which beacon a user is nearest to, give zonal positioning and to check whether there are any beacons in the area of interest.

Power

One common area of interest for beacons is the means of powering these devices. Batteries are commonly used with the introduction of power over:

  • Batteries
  • USB
  • Solar/Light

Batteries

When using batteries there are two key factors to consider that impact the life of the battery

  • The speed at which the beacon sends out its signal
  • The reach of the signal (transmit power)

100ms and 0dbm will drain the battery and give a 1000mAh coin cell 3-6 months.

Beacon battery

These parameters can be altered to give more battery life and will demand on use case.
A Beacon that uses 2xAA batteries can operate for 3-5 years at the above
parameters making it good choice of Beacon.