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8 things you need to know about beacons

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Raquel Ligero

10 January, 2018

Beacon technology burst into market in 2013 and, since then, it has grown in popularity. There are many people and companies that opt for this technology to initiate a smart project, but what should we know about bluetooth beacons?

1. What is a beacon?

A beacon is a device based on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) that’s constantly broadcasting a unique signal. This can be received and read by other devices, such as smartphones and tablets, when driving past. It is necessary that the receiving device has the Bluetooth enabled and have a specific app to recognize the signal.

To make an analogy, a beacon would be like a lighthouse located in the coastline, that emits a light signal for sailors to be interpreted.

2. How does a beacon work?

Beacons are passive elements, i.e. do not emit any information but a unique identifier that has to be interpreted to find what’s behind it. The function of a beacon is to awaken other devices that are “listening” and to do this they have installed a specific app that recognizes the signal they broadcasted. When this happens it triggered an action in the app.

3. Where can we use beacons?

Applications of bluetooth beacons are infinite. Still, there are some use cases that have become the most common:

  • Indoor tracking: in the workplace, for example. Perfect for knowing when workers entero and leave or where refinery operators are for emergencies. It also permits us to do inventories more quickly or monitor the inputs and outputs of materials.  
  • Asset tracking: beacons can tell us where our belongings and objects are at all times. The solution to never lose our luggage or keys, for example.
  • Retail: beacons can also help create a better user experience in shopping centers or attract customers by sending information about new products or discounts. In addition, with the information from beacons, sellers could also generate a heat map to understand customer’s behavior.

4. What do we need to make a beacon work?

First of all, it needs to be configured. There are different applications to do it, but we recommend iBKS Config Tool (perfect to start working with our iBKS beacons). When the app locates the device, this will allow us to modify each of the parameters as appropriate. For example: interval, power or the URL that’s emitted. Once configured,we only have to place it in the desired location and wait for the signal to be received.

There are different protocols to achieve an effective communication between devices:

5. Can I use beacons without an app?

Yes, thanks to Physical Web and Nearby Notifications, two solutions from the Eddystone Protocol. To activate these options it is necessary:

6. What devices are compatible with beacons?

All. Beacons are compatible with any smartphone or tablet that has a bluetooth version 4.0 or higher. There are also other receiving devices, called gateways, that detect beacons that have entered into an established perimeter and send the information they receive from their signal to the cloud via WiFi, Ethernet or USB port.

7. How long does the battery last on a beacon?

Beacons require a power source to operate. They usually incorporate a small button battery and its duration depends on the internal configuration of each device.

If, for example, the interval of the signal is very continued (every second) the battery life will be between 2 and 8 years (depending on the beacon and its configuration). If the signal is emitted sporadically the battery life will be much longer (it can last more than 10 years). Furthermore, there are beacons with USB our iBKS beacons have a removable, batteries; you can consult our iBKS beacons and its battery life.   

8. Is it safe to use a beacon?

Beacons are constantly emitting a signal, no matter who receive it. They work with a unique and public ID and that may pose a risk, since our data can be read by third malicious parties (our competitors, for example). In 2016, this problem was solved thanks to the Ephemeral ID of Google Eddystone Protocol:

 

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