New Ultra Low Power Bluetooth Transmitter Chip

All beacons are currently based on System on a Chip devices that are essentially small computers. While they are low power, it’s possible to create Bluetooth transmitters that are just electronics with no computing element and thus significantly reduce development effort (for the beacon manufacturer) and save substantial battery power for the end user.

Asahi Kasei Microdevices Corporation has announced the AK1594, a new Bluetooth® Low Energy Transmission IC. As there’s noting to connect to via GATT, settings are configured via EEPROM programming and external switching rather than via an app. It consumes only 9.1uA when transmitting 0dBm every 1 sec.

Asahi Kasei Microdevices Corporation also mention a new beacon, from Houwa System Design, the Beacon Tag BLEAD® Series that will use the new chip and will be available from May 2018.

9.1uA is very low current for a beacon and is the order of magnitude a normal beacon uses when it isn’t advertising. This low power requirement will allow beacons to operate for effectively the physical rather than electrical life of the battery that’s probably of the order of a decade. It also allows new types of beacon to be created that use RF or solar energy harvesting.

Setup via EEPROM programming isn’t that easy or possible for end users and we expect initial beacons based on this technology will have fixed iBeacon advertising with only settings like power and advertising period set via switches.

Update on Bluetooth 5 and Beacons

It’s nearly a year since we wrote about Bluetooth 5 Beacon Implementation Tradeoffs.

Since then, the Samsung S8, iPhone 8/X, and Google Pixel 2 have been released that support Bluetooth 5. However, while these support the LE 2M high speed PHY they don’t support the longer range PHYs. There are currently no smartphones that can take advantage of Bluetooth 5’s longer range.

There are few true Bluetooth 5 beacons. Most that say they are Bluetooth 5 ‘ready’ or ‘compatible’ are only compatible to the extent that their firmware can be upgraded in the future.

An exception is SNCF, the French train company, who are manufacturing their own beacons in order to start experimenting with Bluetooth 5. As mentioned in the Mr Beacon video, SNCF are looking to Bluetooth 5 to provide for (up to x4) better beacon battery life. How is this possible, especially as the SoC chips themselves (usually nRF52 or TI CC2640) are the same whether they run Bluetooth 4 or 5? The battery current is actually the same. Bluetooth LE devices consume most power when actually transmitting and negligible power inbetween transmissions. The faster data rate allows the Bluetooth device to transmit the same data over less time thus using less battery power.

AB Wireless Gateway V2 Available

We have the AB BLE Gateway in stock. This improves on the original AB Wireless Gateway in that it provides double the throughput, detecting 50 beacons/sec.

Gateways are the glue that makes beacons part of the Internet of Things (IoT) and enable real time positioning and sensing.

Read more about:

Beacon Proximity and Sensing for the Internet of Things (IoT)

Beacons in Industry and the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR)

New Long Range 210L Beacon

We just received the 210L ultra-long 200m range beacon into stock.

Most beacons tend to have a range of 30m, 50m or 100m. The normal output is 0dBm but they can be boosted to +4dBm to achieve the maximum ranges. Read our article on Choosing the Transmitted Power for more information.

The 210L beacon transmits at +10dBM which is the maximum allowable for this class of Bluetooth 4 device. This is just over 3x the power of a beacon transmitting at 0dBm. Hence, there’s respective reduction in battery life.

View our ultra-long range beacons

Updated Sensor Beacon Matrix

We offer a range of sensor beacons but what each beacon actually senses or detects is buried deep in the respective beacon descriptions.

We have updated our downloadable pdf showing what each beacon can detect.

If you want to know how you might use these beacons, take a look at our article on Beacon Proximity and Sensing for the Internet of Things (IoT).

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