One of our manufacturers, Moko, has some new videos demonstrating how beacons can be used. The first one shows beacons being used by shopkeepers:
The second demonstrates smart parking:
An app might not connect for a number of reasons. Here are some tips:
There’s a recent paper Review of Indoor Positioning: Radio Wave Technology that provides a great overview of indoor positioning technologies.
From a hardware perspective it covers, RFID, UWB, Bluetooth, ZigBee, IR, WiFi, ultrasonic and hybrid systems. There’s a useful comparison table of the various technologies:
The paper describes methods of using radio signals to determine position such as RSSI ranging, trilateration, angle of arrival (AOA), round trip time of flight (RTOF), phase of arrival (POA) and time of arrival (TOA).
It also describes methods such as fingerprint localization.
The distance that a beacon can transmit is shown in the specification tab for each beacon. This is the maximum range specified by the manufacturer at maximum power under ideal conditions.
Here are some tips if the range is less than expected:
The maximum specified range is rarely achieved for any beacon although there have been a cases where we have found beacons to be better than the specification.
All manufacturers, not just those whose beacons we sell, tend to specify the optimum range, outdoors, with no radio interference. You will experience reduced range indoors where there are radio reflections and obstacles. If you need a long range under all circumstances then we recommend you over-specify the beacon range and perhaps look at beacons with an ultra-long range.
There’s recent research into using Bluetooth beacons in mines. The paper by Department of Energy Resources Engineering, Pukyong National University, Korea on Analysis and Diagnosis of Truck Transport Routes in Underground Mines Using Transport Time Data Collected through Bluetooth Beacons and Tablet Computers analyses truck travel times.
Beacons are detected by truck mounted tablet computers and analysed by a cloud server. This was tested in a limestone mine located in Jeongseon, Korea. The system is able to detect sections of routes that are stable and unstable so as to highlight areas that need further analysis and remediation to improve transit flow.
This is one of the first applications of Bluetooth Mesh outside of lighting. Workers push the panic button if they need help. A nearby beacon is used to identify their location and a notification is sent to security or the hotel manager.
Beacons allow you to set the transmit power to levels such as -30dBm, -20dBm, -16dBm, -12dBm, -8dBm, -4dBm, 0dBm and +4dBm. The number of actual setting values depends on the beacon. 0dbm is the default power recommended for normal use. Our article on Choosing the Transmitted Power explains these values and how they relate to distance.
We are often asked ‘What are the Estimated Distance/s for Tx Powers?’. This depends on the beacon, the environment and the receiver. An analogy is someone shouting a word. How loud does someone have to shout to be heard a certain distance? It depends on how clear the person shouts, how much noise there is and how well the person listening can hear. With beacons it depends on the beacon (mainly antenna) design, how much radio frequency (RF) noise there is, the degree of RF reflections, the receiving ability of the device (smartphone or gateway) you are using and even the weather.
The only way to determine the relationship between distance and power is experimentally and it will likely change over time as the environment changes.
If you want to try Bluetooth beacon advertising from your iOS or Android smartphone there’s a Flutter plugin called beacon_broadcast:
Simulating a beacon from a smartphone is a great way to get started and explore Bluetooth LE prior to buying dedicated hardware devices. However, it’s not something you should progress to regular use because advertising in this way uses a lot of battery power.
Beacon_broadcast is open source and the source code can be found on GitHub.
We offer a range of sensor beacons but what each beacon actually senses or detects is buried deep in the respective beacon descriptions.
As we have recently added new sensor beacons, 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 articles on Beacon Proximity and Sensing for the Internet of Things (IoT) , Using Bluetooth LE and Using Bluetooth LE Sensors.